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I composed this study in 2013. It has been online at the OBJECTIVIST LIVING forum since then. It would be good to have it right here, in this milieu. (For the K/R views of logic, see here.)

This study comprises three parts:

I. Sense and Mind – Rand

III. Empirical Realism – Kant (A/B/C/D/E)

III. Empirical Judgment – Kant and Rand (A/B/C/D/E)

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I. Sense and Mind – Rand

Man is able “to perceive a reality undistorted by his senses. . . . ‘Things as they are’ are things as perceived by your mind; divorce them from reason and they become ‘things as perceived by your wishes’” (AS 1036).

“The axiom of existence and consciousness” has consciousness as fundamentally an instrument of perceiving existence, not creating existence, and has existence as object of consciousness, not subject of consciousness (AS 1036–37). We are not like the Judeo-Christian model of God, “who creates a universe out of a void by means of an arbitrary whim” (1037).

Those ideas are in the radio speech of the fictional John Galt, which speech is Rand’s 1957 exposition of her mature philosophy.  Rand portrays therein the human being as naturally a unity in body and mind, including a unity of sensory experience and thought. In human perception, sensing and reasoning are a team united in the aim of identification. There is no such thing as perception not sensory or knowledge not by reason (AS 1035). The world is an objective reality in which things have definite natures and causes that the mind is able to know as they are.

An infant attains mind the day “he grasps that the streak that keeps flickering past him is his mother and the whirl beyond her is a curtain, that the two are solid entities and neither can turn into the other, that they are what they are, that they exist. The day when he grasps that matter has no volition is the day when he grasps that he has . . . . The day when he grasps that his senses cannot deceive him, that physical object cannot act without causes, that his organs of perception are physical and have no volition, no power to invent or to distort, that the evidence they give him is an absolute, but his mind must learn to understand it, his mind must discover the nature, the causes, the full context of his sensory material, his mind must identify the things he perceives—that is the day of his birth as a thinker and scientist.” (AS 1041)

Reason is the faculty that perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by his senses. The task of his senses is to give him the evidence of existence, but the task of identifying it belongs to his reason, his senses tell him only that something is, but what it is must be learned by his mind.

All thinking is a process of identification and integration. Man perceives a blob of color; by integrating the evidence of his sight and his touch, he learns to identify it as a solid object; he learns to identify the object as a table; he learns that the table is made of wood; he learns that the wood consists of cells, that the cells consist of molecules, that the molecules consist of atoms. All through this process, the work of his mind consists of answers to a single question: What is it? (AS 1016)

Rand thought that higher animals are guided by percepts. The actions of such an animal “are not single, discrete responses to single, separate stimuli, but are directed by an integrated awareness of the perceptual reality confronting it” (Rand 1961a, 19).

We should note, however, that “an animal has no critical faculty . . . . To an animal, whatever strikes his awareness is an absolute that corresponds to reality—or rather, it is a distinction he is incapable of making: reality, to him, is whatever he senses or feels” (Rand 1961b, 17; see also ITOE App. 246; cf. Burge 2010, 279–81).

When it comes to human beings, Rand observes, they have an integrated perceptual awareness, one augmented by the ability to identify perceptual illusions (AS 1041). We can come to understand illusions in terms of veridical perceptual components of which they are composed (Branden c. 1968, 47–48). “If there were no objective perceptions of reality, from which ‘illusions’ and ‘appearances’ are intended to be distinguished, the latter concepts would be unintelligible” (Branden 1963, 2; further, Kelley 1986, 135, 182–83, 218, 232–42; Peikoff 1991, 39–54). Moreover, we are capable, when awake and healthy, of identifying the phantasmagoria of dreams and hallucinations as occasions of consciousness not fastened upon reality (Branden c. 1968, 87; Kelley 1986, 133–38, 217–18; Peikoff 1991, 41). We can also tell the difference between our episodes of perception and our episodes of memory or imagination (ITOE 30). In Rand’s view, all of those types of human consciousness have a content that “is some aspect of the external world (or is derivable from some aspect of the external world)” (31).

Rand stressed the primary, foundational kind of consciousness we possess, which is the kind possessed in veridical perception. This essential sort of consciousness is given pride of place in much contemporary philosophy of perception. It is sometimes termed success consciousness. This fundamental sense of consciousness is what Rand articulates when she writes that consciousness is “the faculty of perceiving that which exists” and “if that which you claim to perceive does not exist, then what you possess is not consciousness” (AS 1015).

Awareness is awareness of something. A contentless state of consciousness is a contradiction in terms.

Two fundamental attributes are involved in every state, aspect, or function of man’s consciousness: content and action
the content of awareness, and the action of consciousness in regard to that content. (ITOE 30−31)

The mind’s only access to reality is by means of its percepts (Rand 1970). “It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. When we speak of ‘direct perception’ or ‘direct awareness’, we mean the perceptual level. Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident” (ITOE 5; also Branden c. 1968, 121–22; Kelley 1986, 45–50). Beyond infancy, that is (Rand 1971, 1027; Peikoff 1991, 52–54).

My first course in the history of modern philosophy began with the sixteenth century and ended with Kant. We examined those thinkers’ views only in theoretical philosophy, mainly epistemology. We read from their own texts, and in class we listened to analyses of our professor and discussed the arguments (accompanied with quite a few cigarettes in those days). Our thinkers included those of skeptical, Empiricist, and Rationalist stripes, all of them thinking with Greek and Judeo-Christian conceptions as part of their background: Galileo, Montaigne, F. Bacon, Gassendi, Descartes, Hobbes, Pascal, Spinoza, Malebranche, Locke, Leibniz, Bayle, Berkley, and Hume. Our final text was my first reading of Kant, his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783). It was in English, though hard to penetrate. One thing was plain, that this was a mind and system a step higher than any we had seen in his modern predecessors.

Kant knew the power and glory of Euclid and Newton. He knew how Newton had used geometry and empirical findings, and he knew Newton’s weave of fundamental physical concepts given mathematical expression. In the same arena, mathematics and science, he knew Descartes, as well as Euler and Lambert (Friedman 1992).

In the arena of philosophy, Kant had before his eyes, importantly for logic and epistemology, the writings of Plato and Aristotle and the moderns lately mentioned (Kuehn 1987; 2001; Garber and Longuenesse 2008). One of the first things one learns about Kant is that he was answering skeptical challenges to rational knowledge, especially from Hume, while also demolishing Rationalist bridges for knowledge of things as they are, unadulterated by the forms of our cognition.

Rand’s 1957 set out her own response to (mysticism and) skepticism, Rationalism, and Empiricism. Hers was a new metaphysics and theory of mind, indebted to Aristotle, but innovative and sensitive to developments in subsequent science and philosophy. In 1961 Rand summarized her view of the history of philosophy in “For the New Intellectual.” She names names. "[Aristotle’s] incomparable achievement lay in the fact that he defined the basic principles of a rational view of existence and of man’s consciousness: that there is only one reality, the one which man perceives—that it exists as an objective absolute (which means: independently of the consciousness, the wishes or the feelings of any perceiver)—that the task of man’s consciousness is to perceive, not to create, reality—that abstractions are man’s method of integrating his sensory material—that man’s mind is his only tool of knowledge—that A is A." (Rand 1961b, 22)

Man’s consciousness shares with animals the first two stages of its development: sensations and perceptions; but it is the third state, conceptions, that makes him man. Sensations are integrated into perceptions automatically, by the brain of a man or of an animal. But to integrate perceptions into conceptions by a process of abstraction, is a feat that man alone has the power to perform—and he has to perform it by choice. The process of abstraction, and of concept-formation is a process of reason, of thought; it is not automatic nor instinctive nor involuntary nor infallible. Man has to initiate it, to sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results. The pre-conceptual level of consciousness is nonvolitional; volition begins with the first syllogism. (14–15; cf. ITOE 28)

In this essay (1961b), Rand specifies faults of and corrections to Descartes, Hume, and Kant. She reiterates the conceptions of reality and reason she had set out in Atlas, though with more specific attention to the factor of concepts.

The existence of the external world is perceptually self-evident and not to be proven by deduction from contents of consciousness, contra Descartes. Knowledge of the world is “derived from perception of physical facts,” contra Rationalism; and knowledge of the world is not “by direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts,” contra Empiricism (Rand 1961b, 30; 1970). In the present study, I shall not gage the accuracy of Rand’s understanding of Kant (Rand 1961b, 30–32; cf. Hill 2001; Seddon 2003, chap. 4). I can Kant, and in this study, I shall be comparing truth in perception and the role of conception and judgment therein in Kant’s transcendental idealism with that issue in Rand’s variety of objective realism.[1]

(To be continued.)


1. On Kant and John McDowell (1994) in this arena, as well as intervening philosophers in this arena, see Friedman 2002. On Kant, Sellars, and McDowell on “The Myth of the Given,” see Bird 2006, 193–207. An objective realism is advanced in Brewer 2011, chap. 6, alternative to Rand’s (and Kelley 1986, 197–242) and counter Sellars’ attack on the given in perception and the role of that given in empirical knowledge.


Bird, G. 2006. The Revolutionary Kant – A Commentary on the Critique of Pure Reason. Open Court.

Branden, N. 1963. The Stolen Concept. The Objectivist Newsletter 2(1):2, 4.

——.c. 1968. The Basic Principles of Objectivism. Lectures transcribed in The Vision of Ayn Rand. 2009. Cobden.

Brewer, B. 2011. Perception and Its Objects. Oxford.

Burge, T. 2010. Origins of Objectivity. Oxford.

Friedman, M. 1992. Kant and the Exact Sciences. Harvard.

——. 2002. Exorcising the Philosophical Tradition. In Reading McDowell on Mind and World. N. H. Smith, editor. Routledge.

Garber, D., and B. Longuenesse, editors, 2008. Kant and the Early Moderns. Princeton.

Hill, R. K. 2001. Rethinking Rand and Kant. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 3(1):195–204.

Kant, I. 1783. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. L. W. Beck, translator. 1950. Bobbs-Merrill.

Kelley, D. 1986. The Evidence of the Senses. Louisiana State.

Kuehn, M. 1987. Scottish Common Sense in Germany 1768–1800. McGill-Queen’s.

——. 2001. Kant – A Biography. Cambridge.

McDowell, J. 1994. World and Mind. Harvard.

Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Dutton.

Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.

——. 1961a. The Objectivist Ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness. 1964. Signet.

——. 1961b. For the New Intellectual. Title essay. Signet.

——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. Meridian.

——. 1970. Kant v. Sullivan. The Objectivist 9(3):801–10.

——.1971. Art and Cognition II. The Objectivist 10(5):1025–35.

Seddon, F. 2003. Ayn Rand, Objectivists, and the History of Philosophy. University Press of America.

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II.A  Empirical Realism – Kant

Rand’s conception of logic is thick, not thin. “Logic rests on the axiom that existence exists,” and “existence is identity” (AS 1016). Logic is not only the art of not affirming A and not-A, including avoidance of inferences that could allow A and not-A. Logic is that, in Rand’s view, but it has that character by its role in the enterprise of identifying existents and their natures. Logic as noncontradictory identification includes not affirming A and not-A, but also not affirming A while denying essentials of A or other conditions necessary or sufficient for A (further, Branden c. 1968, 63–76; Piekoff 1991, 118–21, 125–26, 137–39).

Similarly, Rand’s conception of thinking is thick, not thin. Thinking is the conceptual, integrative process of “defining identity and discovering causal connections” (AS 1038).

Kant sometimes used think (denken) in a thin way, which is a common way. There it meant only entertainment of something noncontradictory in the thin sense. Kant engaged the thick, the cognitive, beyond thin thought, and this engagement was his springboard to transcendental idealism (KrV B xxvi, n103).

Transcendental idealism comports with an empirical realism. Both begin in Kant’s expositions of the concepts of space and time. We think of things being in ourselves as minds or outside ourselves as minds. Kant maintained that if we think of anything outside our minds, we must think of it as in space. We can think of the space as empty of objects, but we cannot remove the space and yet be thinking of the outside-ourselves-as-minds. If we are thinking of the way of things outside ourselves as minds, we are thinking of the spatial. In Kant’s view, this is only a condition of our own human cognition, for all we know, but it is a necessity for us (A24 B38–39, A26–28 B42–44, A59 B42; Falkenstein 1995, 186–216).

Kant reasons further that because space is necessary to any outer experience we can have, we cannot get our grasp of space through outer experience, and space must be character of our mind’s form of experiencing the physical world. Spatial relations will necessarily be part of the determinate character of physical things as experienced by us, but that character is from us as minds. Space is not a property of any things in themselves nor relations among things in themselves (A26 B42; see also Boydstun 1997, 11–17; Shabel 2010, 93–117; Parsons 2012, 5–41).

Kant calls intuition our direct knowing of something whole, direct knowing of a singular thing whole (A25 B39–40, B236n, A320 B377). That, as opposed to knowing discursively, judgmentally, inferentially, knowing by generalization of instances or by accumulation of parts.

“Intuition that refers to the object through sensation is called empirical intuition. The . . . object of an empirical intuition is called appearance.

Whatever in an appearance corresponds to sensation I call its matter; but whatever in an appearance brings about the fact that the manifold of the appearance can be ordered in certain relations I call the form of appearance. Now, that in which alone sensations can be ordered and put into a certain form cannot itself be sensation again. Therefore, although the matter of all appearance is given to us only a posteriori, the form of all appearance must altogether lie ready for the sensations a priori in the mind; and hence that form must be capable of being examined apart from all sensation.” (A20 B34)

No. Some order of sensations could be received with the sensory activations, and this order could be a factor in determining the structure of sensory organs in development and in evolution such that certain order in sensory sensations and in their further processing is discerned when presented (cf. Sellars 1967, 6–8, 28–30, 53–57; Pippin 1982, 47–52, 70–71, 115–23, 188–89, 226–28; Parsons 2012, 18, 30–41). The magnolia is seen by me presently as left of the willow oak, and the boxwoods are seen as between me and those trees. That can be because those are the spatial relations among the two trees, the shrubs, and my body as they are in themselves at this time.

Kant thought that only if our abstract consideration of spatial relations in Euclidean geometry (taken in Kant’s day to be in all its structure the geometry of the physical world) were of structures brought to the world by our minds, only then, could the effectiveness of the method of geometry—posits, constructions, theorems—be explained (A24, A46–49 B63–66). That is a mistake. If spatial relations are in our every outer experience because they are always in the world we experience as outside ourselves as minds, then too, the relations could come to be in our minds for our treatment as in geometry (cf. Pistorius 1786, 94–99; 1787, 179–82; 1789, 255–56). What the method of Euclid’s geometry shows is that empirical methods of observation and experimentation are not the only methods effective in discerning something true of physical possibilities and impossibilities (further planes: Stalnaker 2012; Burgess 2008; Belot 2011, 86–90, 117–49; Correia and Schnieder 2012; Williamson 2013). Conditions of physical possibilities are indeed conditions of the possibility of our experience. Space can be a condition for the possibility of all experience of things outside ourselves as minds, and that, precisely because space is a condition of the physically possible (cf. Westphal 2004, 77–78, 84; Allison 2004, 128–32).

Kant has gotten a good insight into Euclid’s method and into the fundamental standing of space in empirical experience. But he overlooks the sort of realist assimilation of those insights I have just proposed (B167–68; Boydstun 1997, 17; further, Carey 2009, 70–72, 96, 449–50; Piaget and Inhelder 1948).

In speaking of appearance and the form of appearance, Kant does not mean illusion. He stresses the characters in appearance are actually given as in their relations to us as minds. Because such characters, such as spatiality, are not in objects apart from our apprehension of those objects, he calls the objects as given to us appearances (Bxxv–xxviii, A29–30 B45, A44–46 B61–63, B69–71, A155–58 B194–97, A257–58 B313–14, A293–98 B349–55, A490–97 B518–25, A506–7 B534–35, A538–41 B566–69; Prolegomena 4:287–93, 4:375; further, Allison 2004, 50–73; Grier 2001, 86–93; Westphal 2004, 38–41, 50–66; Parsons 2012, 33–41). The grand epistemological illusions, in Kant’s estimation, are: treating things as they are in sensory perception as though they were those things as they are in themselves; the prior certainty of inner appearances over outer ones; and the reification of abstractions into things in themselves. (See further, Bird 2006, 10–13, 23–24, 33–34, 40–44, 100, 110–15, 122–26, 173–85, 207–13, 409–15, 462–67, 505–21, 530–39, 558–76, 683–88; Grier 2001; Abela 2002; Westphal 2004.)

Our exposition teaches that space is real (i.e., objectively valid) in regard to everything that we can encounter externally as object, but teaches at the same time that space is ideal in regard to things when reason considers them in themselves, i.e., without taking into account the character of our sensibility. Hence we assert space is empirically real (as regards all possible outer experience), despite asserting that space is transcendentally ideal, i.e., that it is nothing as soon as we omit [that space is] the condition of the possibility of all experience and suppose space to be something underlying things in themselves. (A28 B44; also A369–77, B274–77)

Kant’s metaphysical and transcendental expositions of the concept of space argue that our most fundamental grasp of space is not a concept of space, but is an intuition of space. It is an intuition on which our concept space rests once we bring limitations to all-encompassing space (A25 B39). Our concepts belong to the faculty of understanding, not an intuitive faculty. Concepts unify intuitions and contact objects in appearance only through subsumed intuitions, through their shared characteristics (A320 B377). Concepts without intuitions are empty (A51 B75). On the other hand, sensory intuitions (the only kind we have) without concepts are blind. Appearances become experience only by their conceptual rendition. Human experience is itself impossible unless shot through with rationality, contrary the presumption of Hume.

An intuition without concepts is only a particular set of the mind to an object in appearance; it is not a cognition (A50 B74). Experience, by join of intuition and concepts, is cognitive. In Rand’s terms, that is a claim by Kant that only experience engaging recognition under concepts is experience as identification. That might sail provided one enlarged the sense of concept to include elementary image and action schemata of the prelinguistic child (which, by the way, are retained in the adult). Even then, I should not let the ship sail because it may be that although all concrete existents have both (i) particular identity and (ii) specific identity (answering to (a) that, which, when, and where, and (b) what), one’s identifications might sometimes be perceptions of only particular identity, and that may be without operation of concepts or schemata. Yet, beyond the span of working memory, no experience of purely particular identity lasts. For experience wider than that, the ship can sail, with the schemata-proviso.

I should pause over an apparent contradiction in Rand. I reported her 1961 view, against the Empiricists, that our knowledge of the world is not “by direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts.” In 1966 Rand defined knowledge as “a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation” (ITOE 35). This definition suggests that a perceptual observation could be knowledge, and this is in some tension with the 1961 dicta. I think Rand’s conception of perceptual observation as knowledge is not meant to be a cognition free of all assimilation under concepts. The conception of knowledge is as our long-term awareness of continuous existence, the world’s and our own (ITOE 57). There are some concepts, indeed, that “are implicit in every state of awareness, from the first sensation to the first percept to the sum of all concepts” (ITOE 55). This implicitness is not only analytic, but genetic. The concepts of existence, consciousness, and identity are, in Rand’s view, working implicitly and are available for adult conscious acknowledgment (see also Taylor 2002, 110–15; Haugeland 2013, 91–98). These concepts and their close kin, and their more primitive schematic forms, hold knowledge together, even if implicitly, and this includes knowledge not reasoned on observation, but simply by observation (cf. Kelley 1986, 150, 154–74; Burge 2010, 244, 248–51, 396–436). I notice this does not preclude yet other, less general concepts or schemata reflecting broad structure of an observation being also implicitly at work in a particular observation that is knowledge.

Adult experience is touched by concepts, both in our practical negotiations of the world and in scientific observation and controlled experimentation. On that much, Kant and Rand are in agreement. Just as Kant required a priori intuitions of the form of appearance in which objects are given to us, so he required a priori concepts through which any object given in appearance can be thought by us. Those formal a priori intuitions, space and time, together with a priori concepts of objects in appearance, make human experience possible. Jointly, these intuitions and concepts are necessary conditions for the possibility of experience itself (A92–94 B125–27).

By way of important contrast in Rand’s metaphysics, the very general concepts and principles necessary for every experience apply not only to objects as in those knowledge-making experiences, but to objects and relations among them. They apply necessarily to rate of heat flow, for example, not only to rates of heat flow as sensed into or out from our skin. They apply to things as they are connected and not connected to other things, including to ourselves as minds (cf. Pistorius 1788, 178–79; 1789, 257–60). Such necessary concepts would be existence, identity, and causality, whose axiomatic or corollary standing has been argued by Rand and by scholars of her metaphysics. To those conditions, I should add time and space expressly, and some geometry as well, to Rand’s metaphysics as necessary conditions, if not axiomatic ones, for objects and our experience of them. Kant’s appearance should be dropped—spatiality is a character of objects, not only a character of our apprehension of them—though there remains grain to be gathered from Kant and planted in new soil.

(To be continued.)


Abela, P. 2002. Kant’s Empirical Realism. Oxford.

Allison, H. E. 2004 [1983]. Kant’s Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense. 2nd ed. Yale.

Belot, G. 2011. Geometric Possibility. Oxford.

Bird, G. 2006. The Revolutionary Kant. Open Court.

Boydstun, S. 1997. Space, Rotation, Relativity – Kant. Objectivity 2(5):1–31.

Branden, N. c. 1968. The Basic Principles of Objectivism. Lectures transcribed in The Vision of Ayn Rand. 2009. Cobden.

Burge, T. 2010. Origins of Objectivity. Oxford.

Burgess, J. R. 2008. Mathematics, Models, and Modality. Cambridge.

Carey, S. 2009. The Origins of Concepts. Oxford.

Corrreia, F., and B. Schnieder, editors, 2012. Metaphysical Grounding. Cambridge.

Falkenstein, L. 1995. Kant’s Intuitionism. Toronto.

Grier, M. 2001. Kant’s Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion. Cambridge.

Haugeland, J. 2013. Dasein Disclosed. Harvard.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.

——. 1783. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics that Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science. G. Hatfield, translator. In Immanuel Kant – Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. Cambridge.

Kelley, D. 1986. The Evidence of the Senses. Louisiana State.

Parsons, C. 2008. Mathematical Thought and Its Objects. Cambridge.

——. 2012. The Transcendental Aesthetic. In From Kant to Husserl. Harvard.

Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Dutton.

Piaget, J., and B. Inhelder. 1948. The Child’s Conception of Space. F. J. Langdon and J. L. Lunzer, translators. 1956. Norton.

Pippin, R. B. 1982. Kant’s Theory of Form. Yale.

Pistorius, H. A. 1786. On Johann Schultze’s Elucidations. In Sassen 2000 (S).

——. 1788. Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant. (S)

——. 1789. Kant’s Purism and Selle’s Empiricism. (S)

Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.

——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. Meridian.

Sassen, B., translator, 2000. Kant’s Early Critics – The Empiricist Critique of the Theoretical Philosophy. Cambridge.

Sellars, W. 1967. Science and Metaphysics – Variations on Kantian Themes. Ridgeview.

Shabel, L. 2010. The Transcendental Aesthetic. In The Cambridge Companion to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge.

Stalnaker, R. 2012. Mere Possibilities – Metaphysical Foundations of Modal Semantics. Princeton.

Taylor, C. 2002. Foundationalism and the Inner-Outer Distinction. In Reading McDowell on Mind and World. N. H. Smith, editor. Routeledge.

Westphal, K. R. 2004. Kant’s Transcendental Proof of Realism. Cambridge.

Williamson, T. 2013. Modal Logic as Metaphysics. Oxford.

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II.B  Empirical Realism – Kant

I said that for Rand’s metaphysics space should be added to existence, consciousness, and identity as a condition for the possibility of experience. Space is a species of particular identity. The concept concrete presupposes spatiality. Space is a condition of all concrete existents, and since no consciousness of any form is possible without being of concretes or derivative from such occasions of consciousness, space is a condition for the possibility of all consciousness.

Consciousness is an activity. It logically presupposes activity, thence time. In the human case, knowledge that consciousness is an activity across time is developmentally implicit in consciousness. Human consciousness genetically presupposes activity and the passage of time (further, Edelman 1989). Actions and events in the world, and in one’s body and one’s control of it, are given in perceptual consciousness. Identity applied to actions includes identity applied to temporal order (cf. Meyerson 1908, 43). In Rand’s metaphysics, the axioms of Consciousness and Consciousness is Identity, together with the axiom Existence is Identity applied to action, have time and space as among the necessary conditions of all activities and actions, experience and knowledge, human or not.

Space is a particular, a particular in the background of each occasion of consciousness of concretes, including the observations Rand called knowledge. Kant argued that space as the ever-present form of apprehending concretes is infinite in extent and divisibility.

“We present space as an infinite given magnitude. Now it is true that every concept must be thought as a presentation that is contained in an infinite multitude of different possible presentations (as their common characteristic) and hence the concept contains these presentations under itself. But no concept, as such, can be thought as containing an infinite multitude of presentations within itself. Yet that is how we think space (for all parts of space, ad infinitum, are simultaneous). Therefore the original presentation of space is an a priori intuition, not a concept.” (B39–40)

Kant is not giving an argument in this paragraph for the a priori character of the intuition. He gave that in an earlier paragraph, and I earlier rejected it by noting an alternative, more modern and more plausible account for the effectiveness and necessity of geometry setting concretes and our experience of them. Kant has also before this paragraph argued that space is originally an intuition, not a concept, an intuition on which all concepts of space are based and without which geometry (Euclid to him) would be impossible. In the paragraph just quoted, Kant is giving a further argument to the conclusion that space is originally an intuition, not a concept.

This argument is an overreach (see also Pistorius 1786, 98–99). There are elements in Euclidean geometry that are not necessary conditions of the possibility of experience. Infinite extent and divisibility of space are such elements. In this paragraph, when Kant writes infinite (unendlich), I think he really means it when said of space because of the character of Euclidean geometry and his use of the space (solid loci) of that geometry for support of the a priori nature of the original intuition of space (see also A510–15 B538–43; further, Webb 2006, 227–33). Kant does not here leave open the possibility that the parts of physical space are merely indeterminately numerous. We know they are infinite as surely as we know Euclidean geometry is correct.

Euclid’s third postulate that we be able to describe a circle with any center and distance entails that Euclidean space is infinitely large, not merely indefinitely large, at least as the postulate is invoked in Theorem I.16 (Heath 1925, 280; see also I.12, I.22).[1] For Kant, as for Newton, the third postulate indicated physical space was infinitely large since physical space was presumed to be the space of the only geometry they had: Euclidean geometry, with its distinctive parallel postulate. Newton had a neat argument for inferring the infinite extent of space, relying in part on the Euclidean postulate on parallel lines (Boydstun 1995, 51). Of course for Kant, physical space apart from matter was the form of outer appearance and empirical intuition brought to them by our minds, whereas for Newton, physical space apart from matter was coeternal with the divine intellect.

There had been additions to Euclidean geometry beyond Euclid, such as the contributions from Apollonius. These are discoveries about the same geometry that is the topic of Euclid, set by his definitions and postulates, and they are discoveries about that same geometry-space. With these developments incorporated, the object of geometric thought had remained Euclidean geometry. We now know there are some other geometries, and their geometry-spaces, that are alternative candidates for physical space and are such that Theorem I.16 does not hold in them (though it holds locally insofar as such spaces locally approach Euclidean space). Similarly it goes with all other Euclidean assumptions and implications around the idea that geometry-space is infinite in extent. Geometry alone does not settle whether physical space is infinite in extent.

I conjecture that a correct realist theory of space as necessary condition of experience, arrived at by epistemological reflection, should find that its elements of geometry required in perception of any concrete include more than the elements of synthetic geometry common to all of them, more than the elements of order geometry.[2] Be that as it may, leave out Kant’s elements of Euclidean infinity.

Kant argues later in the first Critique that upon his notion of appearance writ large, it is fundamentally delusive to ask whether the given, concrete, material universe (Weltall), in the space that is our form of outer sense, is infinite or finite in extent (A426–33 B454–61, A465–66 B493–94, A476–84 B505–12, A517–23 B545–51; further, Bennett 1974, 151–59, 182–83; Pippin 1982, 66–67; Grier 2001, 172–214; Allison 2004, 108–12, 366–76, 384–95; Parsons 2008, 173–78; 2012, 15–17; Friedman 1992, 61–71, 127–29; 2000; 2013, 156–59, 501–503; see also B112–13 and Longuenesse 1998, 380–84). He was wrong about that because he was wrong in concluding that space is not a relation between concretes as that relation is apart from it being purportedly contributed by our minds to our experience of concretes we find standing in spatial relations. He was correct in one way: the question cannot be correctly and soundly decided by philosophic reflection. But we do not stop there where Kant stopped. The question will be correctly and soundly decided, and the question will be more amply posed, but aided by our modern geometry and logic and our advancing physical science.

Rand’s basic abiding fact “Existence exists” does not include an answer to whether space and the extent of matter and fields in space is finite or infinite. Adding “Existence is identity” and the perceptually given fact that concretes are in space also does not yield an answer to the question.[3] “Existence exists” does yield the specification that there is no time at which existence does not exist. That is not to say it issues the results that existence has existed or will exist for an infinite time; though Rand and her philosophic circle may have slid out to that further character, mistaking its identity with the truth that there is no time at which existence does not exist (Rand 1973, 25; ITOE App. 273; Branden c. 1968, 82; see also Bennett 1974, 159–60; Allison 2004, 374–76).

Kant was right to distinguish between concepts of space with instance-under-species-under-genus and our comprehension of space as parts-in-whole (indeed as infinite parts simultaneously in a whole). One thing to fathom in the sequel is how Kant’s rendition of that distinction impacts his conception of truth in empirical judgments. In Rand’s theoretical philosophy, there is no implication of a divide so deep as Kant’s between concepts of space in taxonomy and perception in which parts of space are present as parts of a singular larger whole, so deep as Kant’s divide between our faculty of concepts and our faculty of sensible intuition.

In Rand’s system we can agree with Kant’s stress on the importance of integration of what he calls intuition and concepts. But we need not take concepts as so thoroughly different from percepts and related schemata in the first place. Kant ends up having to introduce productive (originative) imagination and schematization of concepts to help bridge his divide between intuitions and concepts and his divide between their respective unities (B150–56, B159–65, A137–47 B176–87, A162-66 B202–7; Longuenesse 1998, 211–25, 241–47, 283–91). That appears to be backwards genetically and intensionally. We would never get from infancy to the first word without a repertoire of schemata. Further along development, one does not reach or retain the full concept chair without schematic comprehension of its affordance of a place to sit (Boydstun 1990, 18; cf. ITOE App. 209–10). Looking to phylogeny as well, there are animals who clearly perceive entities and watch for or seek classes of entities (i.e., animals who have intentions towards extensions under intensions) in a spatial world without the power of discursive judgment or geometry (cf. Raftopoulos 2009, 345–48).

Kant’s procession of intensional consciousness from our powers of judgment to schematized concepts appears to be backwards as well. Developmental schemata of sensory presentations and of actions, it seems to me, bring to concepts and judgment not only sensory material organized in space and time, but appropriate variable-magnitude dimensions of things as they are in relation to other things.

In the sequel, we shall look into the differences between the schemata identified in developmental cognitive psychology and Kant’s schematization of the concepts he takes for the most basic categories of thought. We shall look too at truth in perceptual judgments, or empirical judgments, in both the theories of Rand and Kant when they are required to assimilate developmental schemata and their role in adult comprehension.

That is not all. Quite overtly in Rand’s theory, a concept can be formulated not only as instances substitutable under a species standing under a genus, but additionally as having the particular measure values along common magnitude dimensions suspended from the instances a concept subsumes. Any such concept as that has substantial structure of the world of concretes (the world as it is) entrained in the concept, structure additional to recognition of causal and otherwise explanatory structure cast in definition of the concept according to essentials.

(To be continued.)


1. On Aristotle, Euclid, infinity, and proof, see Webb 2006, 201–9, and Kouremenos 1996.

2. On epistemic reflection, see Westfall 2004, 12–21, and Kornblith 2012, chapters 1 and 5. Such reflection should be integrated not only with modern geometry, but with cognitive psychology and with neuroscience. See Raftopoulos 2009 on bringing results of those sciences into an account of space as a necessary condition of the possibility of experience.

3. Leonard Peikoff erred in concluding that identity implies all actual existents are finite not only in their number of qualities, but in the extent of those qualities (1991, 31; cf. ITOE 8, 18; App. 148).


Allison, H. E. 2004 [1983]. Kant’s Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense. 2nd ed. Yale.

Bennett, J. 1974. Kant’s Dialectic. Cambridge.

Boydstun, S. 1990. Capturing Concepts. Objectivity 1(1):13–41.

——. 1995. Space, Rotation, Relativity – Newton and Leibniz. Objectivity 2(3):49–75.

Branden, N. c. 1968. The Basic Principles of Objectivism. Lectures transcribed in The Vision of Ayn Rand. 2009. Cobden.

Edelman, G. 1989. The Remembered Present. Basic Books.

Friedman, M. 1992. Kant and the Exact Sciences. Harvard.

——. 2000. Geometry, Construction, and Intuition in Kant and His Successors. In Between Logic and Intuition. G. Sher and R. Tieszen, editors. Cambridge.

——. 2013. Kant’s Construction of Nature. Cambridge.

Grier, M. 2001. Kant’s Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion. Cambridge.

Heath, T. L., translator, 1925 [1908]. Euclid – The Thirteen Books of Elements. 2nd edition. Dover.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.

Kornblith, H. 2012. On Reflection. Oxford.

Kouremenos, T. 1996. Aristotle on Mathematical Infinity. Franz Steiner.

Longuenesse, B. 1998. Kant and the Capacity to Judge. Princeton.

Meyerson, E. 1908. Identity and Reality. K. Loewenberg, translator. 1930. Routledge.

Parsons, C. 2008. Mathematical Thought and Its Objects. Cambridge.

——. 2012. The Transcendental Aesthetic. In From Kant to Husserl. Harvard.

Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Dutton.

Pippin, R. B. 1982. Kant’s Theory of Form. Yale.

Pistorius, H. A. 1786. On Johann Schultze’s Elucidations. In Kant’s Early Critiques. B. Sassen, translator. 2000. Cambridge.

Raftopoulos, A. 2009. Cognition and Perception. MIT.

Rand, A. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. 1990. Meridian.

——. 1973. The Metaphysical versus the Man-Made. In Philosophy: Who Needs It. Signet.

Webb, J. C. 2006. Hintikka on Aristotelian Constructions, Kantian Intuitions, and Peircean Theorems. In The Philosophy of Jaakko Hintikka. R. E. Auxier and L. E. Hahn, editors. Open Court.

Westphal, K. R. 2004. Kant’s Transcendental Proof of Realism. Cambridge.

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II.C  Empirical Realism – Kant

It is natural to think of Rand’s epistemology as empiricist in that it takes all knowledge to be based on sensory experience. In that broad sweep, it is in league with Epicureans, Locke, and Mill (see De Lacy and De Lacy 1941; Burge 2010, 12–22, 111–27, 149–56). Then too, with Abelard and modern empiricists such as Locke, Rand took reality to be only concrete, aside from our abstractions on it. There is not a mind-independent reality of abstract objects, possibilities, or principles that the mind accesses and brings into coordination with the concrete particulars of sensory experience. There is only one objective realm guiding our understanding of reality, not two, and it is thoroughly concrete. I have proposed that that circumstance does not entail that geometry and mathematics more generally should have the method of the sciences, rather than the method they have.

Rand criticized modern empiricism, as we have noted, for taking knowledge of the world to be “by direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts” (Rand 1961, 30). I have suggested that Rand’s usage of perceptual observation in her 1966 definition of knowledge—a mental grasp of facts of reality reached by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation—is not meant as a cognition free of all assimilation under concepts. So if all concepts have grown up ultimately from sensory experience, then all perceptual observation guided by concepts is guided by previous experience. That is to say, all perceptual observation that is knowledge is guided partly by conceptualized past experience. For any such observation, the concepts existence, consciousness, and identity would be, at least implicitly, part of the conceptualized past experience holding knowledge together.

We must distinguish, however, between knowledge-that and knowhow. Much knowledge of the latter sort is attained in development prior to first concepts and is continued integrally with concepts. Rand’s definition of knowledge can include knowledge in the preconceptual period as well as in our conceptual period. The implicitness of Rand’s axiomatic concepts is different in the two eras and sorts of knowledge. In knowledge-that, the implicitness is logical, also tacit. In human knowhow, in the preconceptual period, the implicitness is logical, also genetic.

My target notion of observation, in the conceptual period, coincides pretty well with Kant’s notion of an experience, except that spatial and temporal individuation of objects, in a Randian view such as mine, is not relative to the perceiving and conceiving subject as subject. That, which, where, and when as given in perception are not dependent on prior assimilation of concepts or schemata identifying what (see Raftopoulos 2009, 93, 113–14, 158–78, 193–213, 269–72, 305–9, 315–18, 327–29, 342–51; Burge 2010, 144–45, 171–76, 179, 191–200). Man’s senses “tell him only that something is, but what it is must be learned by his mind” (AS 1016).

Experience of the Kantian sort or observation of the Randian sort preclude a Humean rot of empirical knowledge such as had hollowed Locke’s empiricism. Kantian experience is such that it must have formal structure from the subject, not acquired from experience, in order that there be experience from which to derive knowledge. That counter to empiricist-bred skepticism lands one farther from classical empiricism than one lands in Rand’s radically world-dependent view. (See Winkler 2010; Bird 2006, 229–53, 263–64, 277–82, 287–301, 324–29, 398–410, 445–72, 493–99; Allison 2008, 252–82; Waxman 2008, 184–92.)

I should mention, in current philosophy, the reformed, realist empiricism of Anil Gupta, also good against Hume and greatly compatible with Rand’s context-sensitive and integrative correspondence view of truth. Refutation of the skepticism engendered by classical empiricism is important, but it is not the full worth of a rational epistemology of perceptual judgment (e.g. Kelley 1986, 208–23). That further aim is illumination of the reciprocity between rationality of one’s prior experiential cognition of how the world is and rationality of one’s perceptual judgment on a present perception (Gupta 2006, 50–55, 161–77). Rand’s metaphysical axioms, with their perceptual basis and their epistemological role in conceptual thought, keep a role for first philosophy (though not of the Cartesian sort) that is a happy supplement to Gupta’s account of that reciprocal rationality.

Rand’s axiomatic concepts are grown from experience of their referents, and they unify experience in knowledge. As mentioned earlier, time and activity are implicit in existence and consciousness. Additionally, space and action are implicit in particular identity and in perceptual consciousness. Space, time, and causality are known in experience of objects and their alterations. Our schemata and concepts of space, time, and causality are grown from our experience of them, and they unify experience, observation, and knowledge (see also Knauff 2013).

The power to identify at the conceptual level in propositions, or judgments, is integral with the power to identify perceptually, in Rand’s formula. Reason identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses in the form of discursive concepts, but also schematically, as in the child’s elementary drawing of human form and the artist’s craft of visual abstraction (ITOE 13; Rand 1971, 47–48). Identifications by reason are preeminently by discursive concepts of kinds, deriving from similarities, differences, and causal relations of items in experience. Identifications by reason are also by thematic, part-whole, and containment schemata and concepts (Boydstun 1990, 29–31). Our reason integrates all those genre into unified understanding of the world given in perception. All along the way, reason has integrated the later findings and their forms of apprehensions with findings and forms earlier in development.

In an early work, Spinoza drew a good analogy between making material tools and making intellectual tools.“But just as men, in the beginning, were able to make the easiest things with the tools they were born with (however laboriously and imperfectly), and once these had been made, made other, more difficult things with less labor and more perfectly, and so, proceeding gradually from the simplest works to tools, and from tools to other works and tools, reached the point where they accomplished so many and so difficult things with little labor, in the same way the intellect, by its inborn power, makes intellectual tools for itself, by which it acquires other powers for other intellectual works, and from these works still other tools, or the power of searching further.” (Spinoza 1662, 31)

That is correct provided we set “inborn power” correctly, as delineated by our best empirical cognitive psychology, and provided we realize that cognitive tool making is self-transformation. Our cognitive tools are made from our earlier, less powerful tools and from what we found in the world with those earlier tools. Concepts and judgments are made from perception, categorical perception, and image/action schemata. Identification by differentiation, integration, affirmation, and denial is the pattern of cognition at all stages. How must the world be for such cognition to be possible? It is such that existence is identity. Holding existence in its identity is holding truth.

Kant could not find a way the world must be such that we could have our human experience of it without some concepts and judgments not derived from experience. He assigns us a purely passive power of receptivity for sensory impressions. Our cognition of objects is through those impressions, although this cognition requires the active, spontaneous power we exercise in conceptualizing the object. Sensory intuition of objects in space and time (or time alone, for inner sense) is the only kind we have, and unless concepts have “an intuition corresponding to them in some way or other,” we have no cognition of objects (A50 B74).

I have not acceded to Kant’s constraint that the spatial and temporal forms of our objective, sensory intuition of objects are not form in the world we muster from the world as part of our sensory perception of objects or alterations. It remains for the spatiotemporal realist, however, as it remains for Kant, to fathom the interrelation of sensory perception and concepts in human experience and in mathematics and science.

What Kant calls reason, imagination, and understanding is together what Rand calls man’s reason, “the faculty that perceives, identifies, and integrates the material provided by his senses” (AS 1016). Kant and Rand agree, contrary Plato and Leibniz, that those powers of cognition do not “defy the bounds of all experience” (A702 B730). “All our cognition starts from the senses, proceeds from there to understanding, and ends with reason, beyond which there is found in us nothing higher to work on the material of {sensible} intuition and bring it under the highest unity of thought” (A298–99 B355). Yet, the most fundamental concepts, the a priori concepts called the categories of pure understanding “are not, as regards their origin, based on sensibility, as are the forms of intuition, space and time; they therefore seem to admit of an application expanded beyond all objects of the senses. Yet they themselves are in turn nothing but forms of thought that contain merely the logical ability to unite a priori in one consciousness the manifold given in {sensible} intuition” (B305–6; also A85–91 B118–23).

For Rand our powers of conceptual cognition are not a priori powers in Kant’s sense of the a priori, nor in pre- or post-Kantian senses (ITOE 77; Peikoff 1967, 93, 97–98, 107–9, 116–17; Rand 1970). “Logic rests on the axiom existence exists” (AS 1016). Furthermore, Rand does not agree with Kant that reason is necessarily under a systematic cognitive illusion of thinking that certain wholes and unities are in the world, whereas truly they are only regulative ideas generated by reason. Rand holds that the whole and all the unity that is existence—exists (AS 1016; ITOE 39).

“Intuition in no way requires the function of thought” (A91 B123). Out of context, that statement can give the false impression that Kant accepts the cognitive autonomy of perception in the way of Rand and Kelley or the eminent direct realist A. D. Smith (Rand 1962, 19–20; ITOE 5, 50–51; Kelley 1986, 49–50, 147–50, 203–18; 1991, 171–78; Smith 2002, 94–121, 133–64; also Raftopoulos 2009, 269–72, 305–9). Under this false impression, there is sensible intuition, and cognition “proceeds from there to understanding . . .” (A298–99 B355). Dramatically unlike Rand, however, Kant does not think sensory presentations can be cognitive without synthetic a priori forms of intuition supplied by the side of the subject and without a common synthetic a priori source from the side of the subject for those forms and for the fundamental, synthetic a priori concepts of the understanding, without which no other concepts are possible (A 124–25, B 137–38, B151–54, B160–63, A142–43 B182, A145–46 B185). I shall return in the sequel to this point as well as to the issue of the autonomy of perception and of observation.

The power Kant calls the understanding brings given sensible objects under concepts. The understanding has rules for its correct thinking, namely logic. The contradictory is false. That is less than the full nature of truth, which demands “agreement of a cognition with its object” (A58 B83). To articulate that full nature of truth is beyond logic, or anyway beyond what Kant called general logic, which is purely formal, having prescinded from all the content in concepts and judgments. Full nature of truth requires further logic, which Kant called transcendental. Rand’s definition of logic, her definition for the art of thinking truly, encompasses both of Kant’s layers of logic, general and transcendental: logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.

In “Capturing Concepts” I remarked that Rand’s theory of concepts is normative, as logic is normative (1990, 34; cf. Kelley 1988, chaps. 2, 3). Norms of classification and definition in her objectivist theory of concepts arise from the structure of the world and economy of mind. Likewise it is for the mensural character she maintains for concepts: norms are from dimensionality and magnitude structure in the world and economy of mind.

Kant gets some things about the nature of concepts right. He does not think of them as in some abstract Platonic or Leibnizian objective realm that we access, then apply to the world of concretes. Other right things, as I mentioned in my 2009, are his grasp that concepts are unities we contrive among diverse things according to their common characteristics (A25 B39, A68 B93, B160–62, A320 B377, A854 B882). He saw also that concepts need to be capable of systematic interconnection so as to satisfy the unity that is the conceiving, judging subject (A67 B92; further, Pippin 1982, 104–23).

Kant does not accept the nominalist strain in Locke, who writes: “General and universal belong not to the real existence of things; but are inventions and creations of the understanding, made by it for its own use, and concern only signs, whether words or ideas” (1690, 3.3.11). Neither does Kant accept the Berkeley-Hume critique of general and universal ideas. A concept is a universal representation; it is not a singular image, as Berkeley and Hume would have it. Locke errs not in thinking we have general ideas, but in thinking that any of them are gotten from perception of particulars unconditioned by fundamental and profound subjective forms (space and time) or that they are gotten from empirical experience unconditioned by pure concepts (the categories) of the understanding (A271 B327, A89–94 B121–27, A78–79 B104–5, B127–29, A124–28, B146–48; see also Guyer 2008, 79–85; Longuenesse 1998, 125–26; Pippin 1982, 90–116).

Kant rests concepts on the spontaneity of thought, specifically on “the unity of the act of arranging various presentations under one presentation” (A68 B93). Concepts serve as rules, general because endlessly repeatable in application, under which particulars can be grouped by characteristic marks. The unity among diversity on which concepts as generals rests is not in the world, but must be in the numerical identity of the conceiving subject (A106–12, B129–36).

Kant’s theory of concepts, like Rand’s, does not fit on either side of the traditional realist-nominalist division. Rand’s theory of concepts is accurately classified as neither nominalism (including conceptualism) nor realism. It can be rightly classed as mensural objectivism. Kant’s theory can be rightly classed as synthetic formalism.

Kant errs in supposing concepts refer only in a mediate way, through sensory intuitions, to things in the world, and he errs in taking that world to be the world as appearance, rather than the world of things as they are themselves and in connection with each other. He errs in taking norms in concepts to arise fundamentally from requirements for self-consistency and unity of the thinking subject, rather than from existence, its unity, its identity structure.

Kant thought that our receptivity of given sensory presentation is not cognitive and requires conceptualization in order to become experience (A50–51 B74–75). “All experience, besides containing the senses’ intuition through which something is given, does also contain a concept of an object that is given in intuition, or that appears. Accordingly, concepts of objects as such presumably underlie all experiential cognition as its a priori conditions” (A93 B126). The sensory given presentation contains particular and specific information about the object that can be thought in concepts and judgments concerning the object. But the most general and necessary forms of objects in experience is not information supplied by the sensory given presentations (sensory intuitions), but by the understanding itself for agreement with itself (B114–16, B133n).

Without the general form of objects supplied by the understanding, there is no cognitive experience of an object. “Understanding is required for all experience and for its possibility. And the first thing that understanding does for these is not that of making the presentation of objects distinct, but that of making the presentation of an object possible at all” (A199 B244).

(To be continued.)


Allison, H. E. 2008. Custom and Reason in Hume. Oxford.

Bird, G. 2006. The Revolutionary Kant. Open Court.

Boydstun, S. 1990. Capturing Concepts. Objectivity 1(1):13–41.

Burge, T. 2010. Origins of Objectivity. Oxford.

De Lacy, P. H., and E. A. De Lacy, editors and translators, 1941. Philodemus: On Methods of Inference – A Study in Ancient Empiricism. American Philological Association.

Garber, D., and B. Longuenesse, editors, 2010. Kant and the Early Moderns. Princeton.

Gupta, A. 2006. Empiricism and Experience. Oxford.

Guyer, P. 2008. Kant’s Transcendental Idealism and the Limits of Knowledge: Kant’s Alternative to Locke’s Physiology. In Garber and Longuenesse 2008.

Kelley, D. 1986. The Evidence of the Senses. Louisiana State.

——. 1988. The Art of Reasoning. Norton.

——. 1991. Evidence and Justification. Reason Papers 19:165–79.

Knauff, M. 2013. Space to Reason – A Spatial Theory of Human Thought. MIT.

Locke, J. 1690. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Dover.

Longuenesse, B. 1998. Kant and the Capacity to Judge. C.T. Wolfe, translator. Princeton.

Peikoff, L. 1967. The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy. In Rand 1966–67.

Pippin, R. B. 1982. Kant’s Theory of Form. Yale.

Raftopoulos, A. 2009. Cognition and Perception. MIT.

Rand, A. 1961. For the New Intellectual. Title essay. Signet.

——. 1962. The Objectivist Ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness. Signet.

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——. 1970. Kant versus Sullivan. In Philosophy: Who Needs It. 1982. Signet.

——. 1971. Art and Cognition. In The Romantic Manifesto. 1975. Signet.

Smith, A. D. 2002. The Problem of Perception. Harvard.

Sober, E. 2008. Empiricism. In The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Science. S. Psillo and M. Curd, editors. Routledge.

Spinoza, B. 1662. Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect. In The Collected Works of Spinoza. E. Curley, translator. 1985. Princeton.

Waxman, W. 2008. Kant’s Humean Solution to Hume’s Problem. In Garber and Longuenesse 2008.

Winkler, K. P. 2010. Kant, the Empiricists, and the Enterprise of Deduction. In The Cambridge Companion to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge.

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II.D  Empirical Realism – Kant

Our power of sensible intuition is, in fact, only receptivity, i.e., a capacity to be affected in a certain way with presentations. The relation of these presentations to one another is a pure intuition of space and time (which are nothing but forms of our sensibility); and insofar as these presentations are connected and determinable in this relation (i.e., in space and time) according to laws of the unity of experience, they are called objects. With the nonsensible cause of these presentations we are entirely unacquainted, and hence we cannot intuit it as object. For such an object would have to be presented neither in space nor in time (which are merely conditions of sensible presentation), and without these conditions we cannot think of any intuition at all. We may, however, call the merely intelligible cause of appearances as such the transcendental object, just so that we have something that corresponds to sensibility, which is a receptivity. To this transcendental object we may attribute the whole range and coherence of our possible perceptions, and about it we may say that it is given in itself prior to all experience. But appearances are given, in conformity with the transcendental object, not in themselves but only in this experience. For they are mere presentations, which signify an actual object only as perceptions; they do so, viz., if such a perception coheres with all others according to the rules of the unity of experience. (A494–95 B522–23; see also A45–46 B63, A103–5, A109, A250–51, A277–78 B333–34, A288–89 B344-46, A379–80, A538–41 B566–69, A679 B707)

From unity of experience, Kant would have objects of experience. That is phenomenologically and logically backwards. With objects in experience come their unities in experience, their existence, their traits, and the necessity of those traits. Objects in experience are in the world and given as in the world, space and time being in the world, not only in our experience of the world. We experience the object that is causing our experience of it. This written text is causing the reader’s experience of it. The keys I am striking are causing my tactile experience of them. Our intellectual grasp of the object will get beyond a particular experience of the object as object, but it need not entail reaching for any purely intelligible object causing the object as in experience. That is a reach for a phantom.

There is no transcendental object demanding the unities of objects and their unities with each other (further, Pippin 1982, 204–5; Longuenesse 1998, 105–11). There is no transcendental object requiring the unities of our own body and mind. The singularity of existence and the singularity of consciousness is implicitly, tacitly in every occasion of one’s consciousness that “it is” or “existence exists.” Moreover, the necessities of all the preceding unities are the necessities of existence and its identities. The source of logical necessity—in both of its layers discerned by Kant—is the necessity of existence and consciousness, the necessity that existence is identity and consciousness is identification.

Kant argues a position contrary this Randian one of mine. In his view, the unity in existence is not from existence, but from the character of our perceiving it and of our thinking it. “Only through the understanding could the power of presentation have been given something as combined” (B130). The manifold with its combinations in any presentation is

"presentation of the synthetic unity of the manifold. . . . The presentation of this unity cannot arise from the combination; rather by being added to the presentation of the manifold, it makes possible the concept of combination in the first place. . . . [This unity is from] what in itself contains the basis for the unity of different concepts in judgments, and hence contains the basis for the possibility of understanding, even as used logically.

"The I think must be capable of accompanying all my presentations. . . . Presentation that can be given prior to all thought is called intuition. . . . Everything manifold in intuition has a necessary reference to the I think in the same subject in whom this manifold is found. But this presentation [i.e., the I think] is an act of spontaneity; i.e., it cannot be regarded as belonging to sensibility. . . . The manifold presentations given in a certain intuition would not one and all be my presentations, if they did not one and all belong to one self-consciousness." (B130–32)

"Cognitions consist in determinate reference of given presentations to an object. And an object is that in whose concept the manifold of a given intuition is united. But all unification of presentations requires that there be unity of consciousness in the synthesis of them. Consequently the reference of presentation to an object consists solely in this unity of consciousness, and hence so does their objective validity and consequently their becoming cognitions. . . .

"Hence the principle of the original synthetic unity of apperception is the primary pure cognition of understanding, on which the entire remaining use of the understanding is based; and this cognition is at the same time entirely independent of all conditions of sensible intuition. Thus the mere form of outer sensible intuition, i.e., space, is as yet no cognition at all; it provides only the manifold of a priori intuition for a possible cognition. Rather, in order to cognize something or other—e.g., a line—in space, I must draw it; and hence I must bring about synthetically a determinate combination of the given manifold, so that the unity of this act is at the same time the unity of consciousness (in the concept of a line), and so that an object (a determinate space) is thereby first cognized. The synthetic unity of consciousness is, therefore, an objective condition of all cognition. Not only do I myself need this condition in order to cognize any object, but every intuition must be subject to it in order to become an object for me." (B137–38; also A102; Bxii, B154; see further, Pippin 1982, 155–58, 165–87; Longuenesse 1998, 61–72)

We have the synthetic unities of our actions and our thoughts far earlier in life than we have the synthetic unities of our concepts, judgments, constructions in geometry, and philosophic reflections. It is not the case that to perceive a line in the world we must first have drawn it. Rather, it and its unity first was there for us to see, whatever compositions by our perceptual system that seeing might require. Likewise, the collection and order of letters, spaces, and punctuation marks in this sentence is here already for the reader to see.

The synthetic unity of consciousness and self-consciousness is indeed an objective condition of all knowledge-that. But “it is” entails and proclaims an it. “It is” is logically prior “I see it is” or “I self-same see lots of things are” or “I think” or “In seeing or thinking, I am”. Existence and its identity is prior any identification or reflection on identification (cf. Peikoff 2012, 33–35; Pippin 1982, 183–87, 225–29; Westphal 2004, chap. 3; Hatfield 1990, 82–87).

Immanuel Kant was an integrating son-of-a-gun. Synthesis and unity are leading ideas in his Critical philosophy. They are essential to cognition and truth (A97–98, B129–30, B134–35, B137, B151).

In Kant’s view, as we saw earlier, our experience of space does not consist of separate disconnected bits nor of less than three dimensions. We experience spatial form directly and as a unified whole. The presentation that is space is an intuition. That presentation is one whose constituent parts are not prior their whole, not parts whose accumulation makes their whole, and not instances under a concept of that whole. Rather, the parts of intuitive presentations, such as the parts of space, are by limitations and divisions of a singular, unified whole. All objects encountered or even possible in sensory experience have their places in that unitary space. Our abstract geometric reasoning, Euclidean geometry, is not disconnected from the space of our sensory experience (A22–30 B37–45; B162; A140–42 B180–82; A162–66 B202–7; A223–24 B271–72; A712–24 B740–52; also Hatfield 1990, 87–98; Friedman 1992, 39–42, 200–202; 2000, 89–93).

Our experience of time, in Kant’s view, is also of a continuous unified whole. All objects, whether in sensory or inner experience, have their places in that one time. Physical things endure and have their motions in determinate ways obligating our perception of them in just those temporal and spatial ways (A30–41 B46–58; A103–10; B136–40; B150–56; B162–63; A140–45 B181–85; A189–211 B232–56).

Kant’s faculty of understanding is a part of what has traditionally been called reason. As said above, the power of understanding is the power of concepts (and more, A126–28). Human experience requires sensibility and understanding working together (see Bauer 2012). True, but I should say Kant underrated the active aspect of perception without concepts and the passive aspect of conceptual understanding. Perception without learned indications of affordances for action is only sensation (cf. Smith 2002, chap. 5). Conceptual understanding not given perception-cum-action schemata is clueless.

Kant had our rational faculties beyond the understanding as two, which he called the faculties of judgment and reason. The powers of reason, in this narrower sense, are of inference and cognitive management (A130–31 B169–70; A686–87 B714–15; A723–38 B751–76). The three higher faculties work together, and each is a grand cognitive unifier (A67–93 B234–294; A669–704 B697–732; see further, Pippin 1982, 207–10).

Kant joined his philosophy of experience and understanding to fundamental physics (1786; Friedman 2013, 563–608). He further elaborated our cognitive powers to enfold our esthetic capabilities (Kant 1790).

In the power he called reason, Kant located the keys to morality. Between reason and morality, there is no divide (A800–819 B828–47; 1785, 4:389–90, 403–4, 408, 411–13, 426–40, 446–48, 453–63; 1788, 5:15–16, 31, 42–57, 89–110, 119–21, 131–32, 134–48; 1797, 6:213–21, 375–78, 396–97). However, the reality of moral law, free will, and God largely transcend reality accessible by our sensory intuition and understanding. The isolation of intuition and understanding from action in Kant’s treatment of them, as well as his isolation of them from their setting in consciousness as life functions, I propose, created a false wall between perception and understanding on one side and morality and will on the other.

Kant inherited entrenched problematic divides in philosophy. Older among them would be the divide between the material world of the senses and the immaterial realm of thought, soul, and God; the divide between inclination and moral obligation; and the divide between reason and faith. More recent among them would be the divide between the deterministic world of science and the inner world of freedom; the divide between the value-absent world of reason and the value-full world of action and feeling; and the divide between things and their effects on us.

Where Kant attempted to smooth together those divisions, he succeeded little. Kant deepened and hardened the divide between inclination and moral obligation. However many ties he made between sensing and thinking, he deepened and hardened the divide between them. Moreover, he deepened and hardened the divide between things and their effects on us. His embrace and expansion of that divide entailed that all the unity and structure he would give to experience, understanding, and morality must come from the side of the subject. Space, time, objects, identity, causality, and moral reasons—all of them, systematically and fantastically, and seductively to many bright thinkers, must come from the constitution of an articulate subject striving for and touched by things as they are in themselves, things as they cannot be in our grasp, things with their own articulation unknowable to us.

Reinhold, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel would innovate their own further integrations to bridge or dissolve problematic divides as they stood in Kant’s philosophy, but their solutions further increased the crafting of reality by subjectivity and, of course, continued to make room for the supernatural. Leonard Peikoff was partly right, though in considerable exaggeration, to call Kant’s philosophy anti-integration (2012, 34–35). That was part of Kant’s endeavor, a result overachieved, alongside his achievements of integration.

Rand’s world and ours is only one world. There is life, condition of consciousness and value. Human consciousness and valuation are open to human choice, within the one, natural world. In all the one world, existence is identity. Consciousness is identification, the grasp of what is and exclusion of what is not. Consciousness is an active process of differentiation and integration. We grasp the world in its given particulars, settings, dimensions, interactions, and magnitude structures. We detect and measure in perception, joined to the magnitude structures there in the world. Our concepts, at their best, rearticulate the world’s own articulation, including its magnitude structures. We are highly integrated in our cognitive powers and highly integrated with the only world, the one available for perception, comprehension, enjoyment, and action.

I have said that a conception of observation for Rand’s definition of knowledge would be comparable to Kant’s conception of experience. At least the two are comparable in their role for knowledge at the conceptual level of human development. In Kant’s conception: "Experience is . . . a cognition that determines an object through perceptions. Hence experience is a synthesis of perceptions that itself is not contained in perception but contains the synthetic unity of the manifold of perceptions in one consciousness. This unity amounts to what is essential for a cognition of objects of the senses, i.e., for experience (rather than merely intuition or sensation of the senses)." (A176–77 B218–19)

In Rand’s terminology, experience in the Kantian sense is percept integrated with other percepts. Contrary Kant, objects are given in percepts, in Rand’s concept of a percept (cf. Schopenhauer 1819, 563–64). Contrary Kant also, in my Randian view, the relations under which percepts are integrated with percepts are relations given in percepts and perceptual observation, relations given among objects, relations such as spatial configurations, temporal sequences, object continuities, and object similarities.

Notice in the quotation that Kant distinguishes experience from its constituents, intuition and sensation. Similarly, we can distinguish observation from percepts and sensation.

Kant says experience is empirical cognition, and this involves the thought of something existent. That thought is not sufficient for empirical cognition. There must also be intuition (B277). Similarly, our target concept of observation requires not only the thought “something exists,” which is a character delivered in a percept, but more specific and particular characteristics. Contrary to Kant’s view of intuition, however, objects are already given in percepts and given as existing. Our grasp of objects existing does not wait upon integration of percepts into observation. Spatial and temporal and action and similarity relations are given in further percepts and integrated in observation. Given from the world, that is.

A percept gives a determinate object as existent, but without differentiations among its determinate characteristics and integration according to perceived relations with other percepts, it gives no fact beyond existent, only character for fact beyond existent. Observation gives a fact beyond the fact of particular existent. Truth about existents arises at the level of observation and thought on observations. At the conceptual level of cognitive development, thought on observations includes judgments on observations.

Inaccuracies and errors at the level of observations are obligatory, whereas, at the level of perceptual judgment, they are open to correction. Though we cannot naturally perceive a straight rod partly immersed in water as a straight rod, we can judge it to be a straight rod being perceived in a perceived situation that makes it appear bent. Observation is obligated, veridically or less so, by the fact it gives. By integration with other observations, judgments on an observation can elaborate what fact(s) has been given in that observation truly.

No doubt with practice the accuracy of our reach into water to grasp an object improves, and we can become adept. That is automatization, as in James and Rand. Reach can come to reflect fact given in sight even as the sight also delivers misleading indications of affordances for action, misleading due to our prior, developmental assimilations of past observations. Note also our acquired proficiency at reaches in real space while informed by the virtual space of a mirror.

We make judgments over what is delivered in observation, as well as over means we devise to make observations. With sophisticated instruments, we can observe what we cannot perceive, though this is through other observations depending on our percepts together with judgments concerning our instruments and what they indicate (see also Brown 1987, chap. 4). Because of the role of such judgments, errors in observations with sophisticated instruments are corrigible. Notice also that instruments such as eyeglasses can help to correct observations made with the unaided senses, thanks to correct judgments over observations.

We have observations as the technical correlate of Kant’s experience, differences noted, and I now propose percept as correlate of Kant’s intuition. The conception of percept appropriate to Rand’s theory of concepts is percept conveying not only existents, but some of the dimensional and magnitude relations of existents. To his credit, Kant realized that all our sensory intuitions convey magnitudes (A162–66 B202–7). He thought they were extensive magnitudes, that is, magnitudes affording the ratio scales we apply to lengths, durations, weights, and so forth. With our expanded understanding today of measurement and its scales, we might generously reconstruct Kant’s thesis as saying sensory intuitions convey ratio-scale magnitude structures, of which extensive magnitudes are a major class. Kant liberalized that far still gets it too narrow. We could have percepts conveying less magnitude structure than that. They could convey magnitude structure only so rich as to afford ordinal scaling, for example.

Kant gets it too narrow in another way as well. His reason for thinking our sensory intuitions convey magnitudes is that all outer intuitions have spatial and temporal form, and these have extensive magnitudes. “What is mere intuition in all appearances is either space or time” (A163 B203). It is only the pure intuitions of space and time, making possible empirical intuition, that necessarily conveys extensive magnitude structure. The necessity for Kant, of course, is due to our minds having brought that structure to empirical intuition (and likewise to Euclid’s geometry).

The magnitude structures conveyed in percepts are more than those conveyed in Kant’s formal component of empirical intuition. Let percept be correlate of Kant’s empirical intuition, including both its matter and its form. Kant means by its matter, its sensation component, which necessarily has an intensive magnitude in the strengths with which it affects us (A166–76 B207–18). This is, again, a necessity from the side of the subject, and it is contrasted by Kant with extensive magnitudes of things found to obtain only contingently in empirical intuition.

This distinction of necessary and contingent truths should be rejected. In Rand’s view of perceptual consciousness, “the content is some aspect of the external world (or is derived from some aspect of the external world) and is measureable by the various methods of measurement applicable to the external world” (ITOE 31). I concur. Spatial and temporal aspects are part of that content, and their necessities are as all other aspects, dimensions, and structures of magnitudes of the content. The psychological aspects of perceptual consciousness, such as clarity, required effort, and context, Rand brings under the general confluence intensity. The percept has a content and an intensity. The latter will be measureable at least ordinally if not more richly (ITOE 31).

The nature of truth in empirical judgments is going to be quite different by Rand than by Kant.

(To be continued.)


Bauer, N. 2012. A Peculiar Intuition: Kant’s Conceptualist Account of Perception. Inquiry 55(3):215–37.

Brown, H. I. 1987. Observation and Objectivity. Oxford.

Friedman, M. 1992. Kant and the Exact Sciences. Harvard.

——. 2000. Geometry, Construction, and Intuition in Kant and His Successors. In Between Logic and Intuition. G. Sher and R. Tieszen, editors. Cambridge.

——. 2013. Kant’s Construction of Nature – A Reading of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. Cambridge.

Hatfield, G. 1990. The Natural and the Normative – Theories of Spatial Perception from Kant to Helmholtz. MIT.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.

——. 1785. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. M. J. Gregor, translator. In Immanuel Kant – Practical Philosophy. 1996. Cambridge.

——. 1786. Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. M. Friedman, translator. In Immanuel Kant – Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. H. Allison and P. Heath, editors. 2002. Cambridge.

——. 1788. Critique of Practical Reason. M. J. Gregor, translator. In Practical Philosophy. 1996. Cambridge.

——. 1790. Critique of Judgment. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1987. Hackett.

——. 1797. The Metaphysics of Morals. M. J. Gregor, translator. In Practical Philosophy. 1996. Cambridge.

Longuenesse, B. 1998. Kant and the Capacity to Judge. C. T. Wolfe, translator. Princeton.

Peikoff, L. 2012. The DIM Hypothesis. NAL.

Rand, A. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. 1990. Meridian.

Schopenhauer, A. 1819 [1859]. The World as Will and Presentation, Volume 1. R. E. Aquila, translator. 2008. Pearson Longman.

Smith, A. D. 2002. The Problem of Perception. Harvard.

Westphal, K. R. 2004. Kant’s Transcendental Proof of Realism. Cambridge.

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II.E  Empirical Realism – Kant

Even apart from observations they may enter, percepts convey existents as existing. Percepts are occasions of intentional consciousness, though occasions of know-how, not knowledge-that. Observations are knowledge-that. They signify, whether iconically, indexically, or with linguistic symbolization. Percepts require no signification, no thought. They require no schematic or conceptual representations, no judgment. Percepts deliver existents as existing, together with forms, boundaries, rigidities, alterations, and with degrees of warmth, loudness, and brightness, as well as with spatiotemporal situation and some of the similarities and differences among existents. With all that deliverance, percepts activate know-how, without any conscious representations, not even iconic ones.

In Kant’s system, empirical intuitions present no object as existing without the experience in which those intuitions are entrained. No objects are presented as existing without consciousness that is knowledge-that. Empirical intuitions are endowed with objects known-that by the power of judgment, by its fundamental forms, concepts, and principles, all of them a priori in origin, all of them conditions for the possibility of human experience. The fundamental forms of empirical intuition, space and time, do not require the power of judgment, but in Kant’s view, any object of an empirical intuition is an object known-that, and such cognition requires the power of judgment.

Kant would say that neither percept a nor observation A, as I am drafting them, is cognitive. Without play of the power of judgment, such consciousness would not have “I think” standing ready to preface the deliverances of a or A (A108–10, B132–43). I say to the contrary, the standby of “I can thus act,” subconsciously in regard to a or more consciously in regard to A is enough for some cognition. “I think” presupposes “I act,” and there are networks of possible actions in elementary observation, without standby of “I think,” to render such observation not only cognitive, but knowledge-that.

Peirce and Rand are empirical realists, in opposition to classical empiricists. Those two each formulate a variety of empirical realism. Kant formulates a third variety, standing far from those two, although united with them in opposition to classical empiricism.

Peirce correctly points out that we are not “informed only by sense impressions. Not at all! Few things are more completely hidden from observation than those hypothetical elements of thought which the psychologist finds reason to pronounce ‘immediate,’ in his sense. But the starting point of all our reasoning is not in those sense impressions, but in our percepts. When we first wake up to the fact that we are thinking beings and can exercise some control over our reasonings, we have to set out upon our intellectual travels from the home where we already find ourselves. Now, this home is the parish of percepts. It is not inside our skulls, either, but out in the open. It is the external world that we directly observe.” (Peirce 1901, 62)

Rand writes:

“Discriminated awareness begins on the level of percepts.

“A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. When we speak of ‘direct perception’ or ‘direct awareness’, we mean the perceptual level. Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident.” (ITOE 5; further, Kelley 1986, 47–50; cf. Raftopoulos 2009, 50–52, 114–18, 135, 175–78, 183–88)

Kant writes in Critique of Pure Reason:

“Experience contains two quite heterogeneous elements: viz., a matter for cognition, taken from the senses; and a certain form for ordering this matter, taken from the inner source of pure intuition and thought. It is on the occasion of the impressions of the senses that pure intuition and thought are first brought into operation.” (A86 B118)

“If the object makes the presentation possible, then the reference is only empirical and the presentation is never possible a priori. This is what happens in the case of appearances, as regards what pertains to sensation in them. But suppose that the presentation alone makes the object possible. In that case, while presentation in itself does not produce its object as regards existence . . . , yet presentation is a priori determinative in regard to the object if cognizing something as an object is possible only through it. Now there are two conditions under which alone there can be cognition of an object. The first condition is intuition; through it the object is given, though only as appearance. The second condition is the concept; through it an object is thought that corresponds to this intuition.” (A92 B125)

To cognize an existent as an object, in Kant’s view, requires the forms of sensory intuition together with a concept of the object identifying its character within the fundamental concepts of the understanding, identifying, for example, the object’s causal character. Kant pleads that such higher identification in experience possesses a quality of universality and absolute necessity, and that no such character could obtain were the fundamental concepts, such as causality, derived empirically from perception (A91–95 B123–28). An empirical derivation of those fundamental concepts, which Kant calls the categories, “cannot be reconciled with the scientific a priori cognitions that we actually have, viz., our a priori cognitions of pure mathematics and universal natural science” (B128). The categories “are concepts of an object as such whereby the object’s intuition is regarded as determined in terms of one of the logical functions of judging” (B128).

I have indicated already, contrary to the ways Kant applies his categories, the ways in which Rand’s philosophic axioms and their corollaries contact percepts, schemata, observations, and concepts. In the theory of predication I proposed in 1991, judgment relies implicitly, logically, on particular and specific identity and on Rand’s axiom Existence is Identity. But Rand’s axiomatic concepts and principles, and corollaries such as causality, are also known and relied upon in preconceptual and prelinguistic forms, which make possible and attend their conceptual forms. Kant’s application of an a priori concept of causality, coordinate with a logical form of judgment, to make the existents given in empirical intuition definite objects, definite in particular and specific identities, is massively incorrect.

Magnitude structures of space and time, as well as numerosities of items, are given in percepts and observations. They are given by the world to our perceptual apprehension, whether or not we parse our apprehension with conceptual understanding (Carey 2009; Mandler 2010). Rand rightly has some similarity relations given in perception and given through given magnitude relations (ITOE 14; App. 140, 199–200; 274, 284–85).

Some similarities given in perception are given in that way, predisposed for concepts of the distinctively Randian form, notwithstanding the circumstance that there are other means available for delivering some similarities given in perception for conceptual identification, means that do not operationally entail implicitly the scaling of magnitudes along dimensions (Boydstun 2004, 291–93, and Nosofsky 1992 cited therein; Jetton 2011, 225–27). That is genesis, not analysis, and it remains very possible that all concretes can be classed in similarity and comparative similarity relations in terms of magnitude relations and measurement-omissions. That is, it remains a live thesis that all concretes can be brought under Rand’s mensural objective concepts as amplified in my 2004.

Against the epistemological views of Berkeley and Hume, Kant correctly draws the important distinction between an image and a schema, affirming the reality of both. The latter is a function of thought of a general, the former a function of reproductive imagination of a particular. Bringing to mind the looks of the room in the basement below the library room in which I am writing is a bringing to mind of images, not schemata. Likewise, if I have spent an hour weeding crabgrass, then as I am falling asleep that night, I may be presented with images of crabgrass, definitely particular, as in a picture.

"It is schemata, not images of objects, that lie at the basis of our pure sensible concepts. No image whatever of a triangle would ever be adequate to the concept of a triangle as such. For it would never reach the concept’s universality that makes the concept hold for all triangles (whether right-angled or oblique-angled, etc.), but would always be limited to a part of this sphere. The schema of the triangle can never exist anywhere but in thoughts, and is a rule for the synthesis of imagination regarding pure shapes in space. Even less is an object of experience or an image thereof ever adequate to the empirical concept; rather, that concept always refers directly to the schema of imagination, this schema being a rule for determining our intuition in accordance with such and such a general concept. The concept dog signifies a rule whereby my imagination can trace the shape of such a four-footed animal in a general way, i.e., without being limited to any single and particular shape offered to me by experience, or even to all possible images that I can exhibit in concreto." (A140–41 B180)

Kant calls our power of schemata the productive imagination, as distinct from reproductive imagination. It is true, as Kant claims, that we have a power of imagination sporting generals, distinct from our imagination for images rendering particulars. It is true that one engaged in geometry or in counting is engaged in a conceptual activity, one in which concepts are governing the schemata. But what Kant does not see is that that is not the only station of schemata, and without measurement-loosened schemata (image- and action-schemata) preceding concepts, no concepts (including Kant’s categories) and no judgments would be possible to us. One could not have a concept triangle without first having schemata for three-sided figures.

"A schema of sensible concepts (such as the concepts of figures in space) is a product and, as it were, a monogram of the pure a priori imagination through which, and according to which, images become possible in the first place. But the images must always be connected with the concept only by means of the schema that they designate; in themselves the images are never completely congruent with the concept. A schema of a pure concept of understanding, on the other hand, is something that one cannot bring to any image whatsoever. Such a schema is, rather, only the pure synthesis conforming to a rule, expressed by the category, of unity according to concepts as such. It is a transcendental product of the imagination which concerns the determination of inner sense as such, according to conditions of that sense’s form (viz., time), in regard to all presentations insofar as these are to cohere a priori, in conformity with the unity of apperception, in one concept." (A142 B181)

Concepts, in Kant’s view, rest on “the unity of the art of arranging various presentations under one common presentation” (A68 B93). For the greater portion of concepts, I concur with Rand that the best such unification is by measurement-omissions from given magnitude structures. Contrary to Rand, I exclude from the measurement-omission mold the concepts of logic, set theory, and mathematics logically presupposed by measurement. But Kant is as wrong about the station of such presupposed concepts as he is about concepts that can be formulated in terms of measurement-omission. Though the presupposed concepts are not to be analyzed in terms of measure-value omissions, they consist of such things as substitution units, mappings, and the not-both relation (Copi 1961, 265–66), which is to say, of relations in particular and specific identity, which are gotten from and pertain to existents and their identities given in perception.

(To be continued.)


Boydstun, S. 1991. Induction on Identity. Objectivity (O) 1(3):1–56.

——. 1997. Space, Rotation, Relativity – Kant. O 2(5):1–31.

——. 2004. Universals and Measurement. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS) 5(2):271–305.

Carey, S. 2009. The Origin of Concepts. Oxford.

Champagne, M. 2006. The Realism of Peirce and Rand. JARS 8(1):19–39.

Copi, I. 1961 [1954]. Symbolic Logic. 2nd edition. Macmillan.

Jetton, M. 2011. The Sim-Dif Model of Comparison. JARS 11(2):215–32.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.

Kelley, D. 1986. The Evidence of the Senses. Louisiana State.

Mandler, J. M. 2010. The Spatial Foundations of the Conceptual System. Language and Cognition 2(1):21–44.

Nosofsky, R. 1992. Similarity Scaling and Cognitive Process Models. Annual Review of Psychology 43:25–53.

Peirce, C. S. 1901. Pearson’s Grammar of Science.  In The Essential Peirce. N. Houser, editor. Vol. 2. 1998. Indiana.

Raftopoulos, A. 2009. Cognition and Perception. MIT.

Rand, A. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. 1990. Meridian.

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III.A  Empirical Judgment – Kant and Rand

Concepts and judgments are built ultimately from percepts, schemata, and observations. Truth and error in concepts and judgments are heirs of truth and error in preconceptual schemata and observation. Concepts and judgments vastly expand truth, error too, especially from failures of objectivity. Affirmation and denial become our powers already with the development of working memory, which is to say already with preconceptual schemata and observation. Affirmation and denial at the conceptual level are pervasive and reflective. For all cognitions at whatever level, their characteristic processes of differentiation and integration, as well as their possibilities for truths, rests on the fundamental circumstance that existence is identity. As I said earlier, holding existence in its identity is holding truth.

I have said that Kant’s “appearance” should be dropped because spatiality is a character of objects, not only a character of our apprehension of them. I have said there is no transcendental object, no need to posit a merely intelligible cause of “appearance,” or speaking without that garble, no need to posit a cause of existence. Those differences with Kant tell the most obvious difference between Kant and Rand on the nature of empirical truth. Such truths in Randian philosophy are truths of things as they are, which are ever things as they are in veridical perceptions and under valid concepts rightly integrated with observations and with other concepts. Existence is identity, and unity and necessity in both experience and thought are from the empirical world, contrary classical empiricism, rationalism, and Kant’s transcendental, formal idealism.

Though we were to let Kant’s “appearance” mean, contrary Kant’s meaning, existence as it is in itself and its interrelations, including relations to ourselves as subjects, it would remain that Kant’s version of empirical realism, judgment, and truth is very mistaken. I have said that Kant’s variety of empirical realism comports with his transcendental idealism. In all the ways he tries to smith that fit, his empirical realism becomes false and his transcendental idealism is exposed as grand mistake (Westphal 2004).

As with unity and necessity, Kant’s dominant tendency is to see form as fundamentally originating in the human subject. Kant’s matter of empirical intuition and experience is not Rand’s content of percept and observation. Kant’s root epistemological matter is the sensation present in empirical intuition (A50 B74). He generally conceives of this sensational matter as inchoate. But he is continually bedeviled by the need for form in the world, and not from us, if his empirical realism and empirical judgments are to be worthy of those titles.

Identity in the world includes necessarily forms in the world, forms normative for mind to grasp. Whatever norms of empirical truth there are from character and needs of the mind (e.g., unity and economy), there must also be norms from the world for empirical truth and for the correction of error in our pursuit of empirical truth. Without mind-independent and mind-informing identity, there is no identification and no mind.

In §IIA I suggested an alternative to Kant’s explanation of spatial form of outer intuition, that is, his explanation of spatial form in all empirical intuition. Putting it in my correlate Randian vocabulary, my explanation is an alternative to Kant’s explanation of spatial form, including all its necessities, in our percepts of objects. Kant’s errors in this issue, as in many others, are partly due to errors in metaphysics. But his errors are also due to the disadvantaged state of human knowledge in his time as compared with our own.

I pointed out that order of sensations can be received with sensory activations and that this order can be a factor in determining the structure of sensory organs in individual development and in evolution such that spatial relations in the mind-independent world can be discerned as they are in themselves, correctly cuing us to action, when presented to our senses. The same very plausible outline will work for temporal relations, together with spatial relations, in the world and in our apprehension of those world-relations.

But Kant had no knowledge of the developmental biology, including neurological development, that would be so much advanced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He lacked the findings of modern neuropsychology and cognitive psychology. He had no knowledge of biological evolution such as we have by Darwin and by subsequent scientific elaboration, confirmation, and join with molecular biology (cf. B166–68). He did not know about the clockworks of biological systems, including neural networks. He had no knowledge of thermodynamics nor statistical mechanics, their connection to the advance of time, nor their application to biological systems.

Kant had supposed at the outset of Critique of Pure Reason that we have truths of geometry, such as the proposition that the angles of any triangle sum to two right angles. He had argued that our proof of that truth, as on display in Euclid, shows that truth to be a priori (independent of experience) and synthetic (not analytic). Both those traits have been subsequently disputed. It has been argued by some that proof of geometric truths does not entail that they are a priori, and it has been argued by others that they are analytic, not synthetic. But in the context of knowledge of geometry and of logic in Kant’s era, his characterization of the established propositions of geometry as synthetic and a priori was plausible. We do not run around measuring the angles of triangles to arrive at the conclusion they necessarily sum to two right angles for any triangle. From that fact, Kant infers the proposition is not derived from experience. Philip Kitcher (1984), and Merlin Jetton and I too, would dispute that conclusion (see Ust 1993; Jetton 1991, 9–15, 24–30), but let us go with Kant’s picture a moment. Kant would point out also that we do not, in our high school geometry, deduce the angle theorem by merely analyzing the terms in the proposition. From this fact, he would have us infer that geometric truths are synthetic, not analytic. He then argues that his transcendental idealism is required to explain how such synthetic a priori true propositions are possible.

Similarly, well into the Critique, Kant marshals our accepted knowledge of the temporal character of objects to argue for transcendental idealism. The accepted knowledge and its use by Kant is as follows.

Time is that whose relations are simultaneity and succession. Time itself does not vary. Time is not presented without objects in perception (A182 B225). In Kant’s terms, that means time is presented only in appearances. Time itself cannot be perceived. Time has a magnitude, which we call duration. Kant concludes there must be something constant in appearances that is “the substratum of all time determinations” (A183 B226; also A143 B183). That underlying permanence cannot be from “our apprehension of the manifold of appearance,” for our apprehension is always varying, always successive (A182 B225). Rather, the permanent in appearance that is substratum of all time determinations is also “the condition for the possibility of all synthetic unity of perceptions, i.e., the possibility of experience” (A183 226–27). There is a necessary condition of permanence, “under which alone appearances are determinable as things or objects of a possible experience” (A189 B232).

Kant observes that when we perceive that two appearances succeed one another, we are connecting two perceptions in time. “Now connection is not the work of mere sense and intuition, but is here the product of a synthetic ability of our imagination which determines inner sense in regard to time relation. But imagination can link those two states in two ways, so that either the one or the other state precedes in time. For time cannot in itself be perceived, and what precedes or follows cannot be determined by reference to it in the object—empirically, as it were. I am therefore, conscious only that my imagination places one state before and the other after, but not that the one state precedes the other in the object. In other words, mere perception leaves indeterminate the objective relation of the appearances following one another.” (B233–34)

Kant had argued early in the Critique that time could not be empirical, for simultaneity and succession could not enter perception unless there were a presentation of time underlying them presupposed, an a priori presentation. He had argued also, parallel his arguments concerning space, that time can be considered as apart from any appearances, but not vice versa, therefore time is a universal condition of the possibility of appearances (A30–31 B46). This doctrine of the priority of time with respect to appearances is in some tension with his position iterated later that time is not presented without objects. I argue in a moment that Kant’s view that time can be considered apart from any appearances is the view to be dropped.

I want to say a word about the block quote from B233–34 just above: wrong. In perceiving that a bird has flown across the windows from my left to my right, I do not require imagination. Moreover, so long as we are rightly conscious, perceptually or beyond, we are in possession of time without perceiving time itself, that is, without perceiving time apart from operations. For we are clocks, living clocks. We are matter immanently aware, in its own clockwork, of the proper time (as in SR) attaching naturally to the existence of that matter. An animal is an ongoing gauge for time in its perception of the world. We have time, mark time, and need not perceive it to get hold of it.

Our own matter, like any matter, is the substratum of time Kant was seeking (cf. A359–64; B414–16; 1783, 4:334–35; 1786, 5:542–43). He concluded that for time to be unchanging there must be a substratum whose quantity was unchanging (A182 B224–25). That was an incorrect inference. That there be matter and alterations of some matter somewhere is enough for time, enough for its specific and particular identities (including its frame dependencies and relations to space we learn in relativity). Kant’s incorrect conclusion does have a correct cousin in our later, Hamiltonian classical mechanics, which rests on generalizations from our empirical investigations.

Where we think of appearance as confined to our perceptions, it is true that time can be considered without appearance, indeed that time concretely is, even without appearance. We do not succeed in imagining such things as empty space or empty time without ourselves being there. The clock keeps ticking. Considering appearance instead to be existence per se, it is false that time can be considered without existence. Kant’s better thought sleepwalks along this latter pathway, though he is bound to not conceive of appearance as existence and fundamental without remainder.

Kant continues concerning objective time: “Now in order for this objective relation to be cognized as determinate, the relation between the two states must be thought as being such that it determines as necessary which of the states must be placed before and which after, rather than vice versa. But a concept carrying with it a necessity of synthetic unity can only be a pure concept of understanding, which therefore does not reside in perception. Here this concept is that of the relation of cause and effect; of these two, the cause is what determines the effect in time, and determines it as the consequence, rather than as something that [as occurring] merely in imagination might [instead] precede (or might not even be perceived at all). Therefore experience itself—i.e., empirical cognition of appearances—is possible only inasmuch as we subject the succession of appearances, and hence all change, to the law of causality. Hence appearances themselves, taken as objects of experience, are possible only in accordance with this law.” (B234; see also A89–92 B122–24, A110–14, B163–64, A176–77 B218–19)

On Kant’s view, the understanding is required for all experience and for any objects to be presented in experience (A199 B244–45). The understanding’s pure and a priori category of causality, which is conjugate of the form of judgment if-then, must be considered (like all the twelve categories) in its schematized form in order to be applied to appearances. Rendering temporal a category yields its schema necessary for application of the category. The schema of causality is “the manifold’s succession insofar as this is subject to a rule” (A144 B183).

Kant famously remarked that Leibniz erred by intellectualizing appearances (A271 B327). That was a fair criticism, but I think it is also fair to say Kant also made that error, in a more moderate though less stable way. We successfully watched birds flying from left to right long before having any power of concepts and judgments. It is true that every alteration perceived has specific and particular identity, including its temporal and causal situation, logically implied in its occasion, where we take logic as including both its general and transcendental provenance. But it is only upon the conceptual stage of cognitive development that concepts of specific and particular identity can become employed (usually only tacitly). Further, in the adult conceptual stage, it remains that we are able to watch a bird fly from left to right without relying, expressly or tacitly, on our conceptual power of causal comprehension. Kant erred in putting his categories of understanding and the power of judgment to work in all perceptual observation, in all experience and presentation of objects in experience.

“A cardinal flew left to right across my windows.” In that statement, in Rand’s view further specified by my triple-identity model of predication (1991, 44–45), identity is declared in a general, formal way and in a more specific, material way. Our homey empirical judgment affirms the particular identity of logical subject and predicate, a specifying predicative identity of the subject (which identity from the predicate in this case is both specific and particular), and the particular identity between stated identity and the existents it identifies. That is the triple, conveying the identities most generally, formally.

Notice that in step with Rand’s conception of logic as resting on the axiom “Existence exists,” my model of predication is centered on existence, and existence in its identity is its whole orientation. The Randian conception of general logic and my general form of predicative truth do not, as in Kant’s general logic, abstract away from “all reference of cognition to its objects.” (A55 B79; further, A58–59 B83–84). Beyond his general logic, it is to Kant’s credit that he orients all fundamental categories and principles of the understanding to sensory intuitions and possible experience. That is only a silver star, for they should be oriented toward their genuine source and attainable object, existence in its identity as it is independently of peculiarities of our perception or comprehension.

There is no propositional truth that is not both formal and material. A purely formal statement “A is B” is neither true nor false. One can freely take it to be true in the course of deriving true formal logical relations. In that role as a true statement, the purely formal statement has the triple-identity structure necessary for having a statement that is true, were particular and specific identities for A and B to be specified. One will not have that specified propositional truth without the general triple-identity structure, that is, one will not hold existence in its identity in propositional form without it. But one will have nonpropositonal truths before reaching predicative language, and in a perceptual judgment, that kind and portion of truth must be cast with the formal structure to have an empirical true proposition.

How empirical material joins logical form is not problematic in Rand’s system. Existence is identity, and consciousness—perceptual, conceptual, and logical—is identification. Material portion of propositional truth is a natural workmate with propositional form because, in my Randian view, both are chasing the one that is, existence in its identity. They are together pursuing truth as it is pursued in observing the cardinal streak past the window: truth as existence in its identity, including the entities, situation, dynamics, kinematics, and statics.

Rand’s logical not-both relation applied to leaf/stone, burn/freeze, or red/green is not required to be in our grasp for those constraints to come into our perception and elementary understanding. Unlike in Kant’s formal idealism, in Rand’s objectivism, logical forms, oriented to sensory perception, do not endow material objects and relationships observed in perception with their identity, objectivity, or truth. Judgment “A cardinal flew left to right across my windows,” pure a priori category and principle of causality, pure a priori forms of empirical observation (Kantian space and time); none are required to get observation of what the cardinal did into the kingdom of truth.

(To be continued.)


Allison, H., and P. Heath, editors. Immanuel Kant – Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. Cambridge.

Boydstun, S. 1991. Induction on Identity. Objectivity 1(3):1–56.

Jetton, M. 1991. Philosophy of Mathematics. Objectivity 1(2):1–32.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.

——. 1783. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. G. Hatfield, translator. In Allison and Heath 2002.

——. 1786. Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. M. Friedman, translator. In Allison and Heath 2002.

Kitcher, P. 1984. The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge. Oxford.

Ust, D. 1993. Mathematic Empiric. Objectivity 1(6):55–71.

Westphal, K. 2004. Kant’s Transcendental Proof of Realism. Cambridge.

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III.B  Empirical Judgment – Kant and Rand

“Anything, even every presentation insofar as one is conscious of it, can be called an object. Yet what this word might signify in the case of appearances, not insofar as they (as presentations) are objects but insofar as they only designate an object, calls for deeper investigation. Insofar as appearances, taken only as presentations, are simultaneously objects of consciousness, they are not at all distinct from apprehension, i.e., from the taking up into the synthesis of imagination; and we must say, therefore, that the manifold of appearances is always produced in the mind successively. If appearances were things in themselves, then no human being could gather from the succession of presentations how their manifold is combined in the object. For we deal, after all, only with our presentations; how things may be in themselves (i.e., apart from taking account of presentations whereby they affect us), is entirely outside our sphere of cognition. Appearances, then, are indeed not things in themselves; but they are all that can be given to us for cognition. And now, whereas the presentation [as such] of the manifold in apprehension is always successive, I am to indicate what sort of combination in time belongs to the manifold in appearances themselves. Thus, e.g., the apprehension of the manifold in the appearance of a house standing before me is successive. Now the question is whether the manifold of this house itself is successive intrinsically {an sich} as well; and this, to be sure, no one will grant. But once I raise my concepts of an object to the level of transcendental signification, the house is not at all a thing in itself, but is only an appearance, i.e. a presentation, whose transcendental object is unknown. What then, do I mean by the question as to how the manifold may be combined in appearance itself (which, after all, is nothing in itself)? Here what lies in the successive apprehension is regarded as presentation; but the appearance that is given to me, despite being nothing more than a sum of these presentations, is regarded as their object, with which the concept that I obtain from the presentations of apprehension is to agree. We soon see that, since agreement of cognition with the object is truth, the question can only be inquiring after the formal conditions of empirical truth; and we see that appearance, as contrasted with the presentations of apprehension, can be presented as an object distinct from them only if it is subject to a rule that distinguishes it from any other apprehension and that makes necessary one kind of combination of the manifold. That [element] in the appearance which contains the condition of this necessary rule of apprehension is the object.” (A189–91 B234–36)

Kant was mistaken in supposing that one’s perception of a house is entirely by successive perceptions of parts that objectively are simultaneous. If one views the house from sufficient distance, the simultaneous existence of its parts will be perceived as existing simultaneously. As one approaches the house, keeping it in view, one will eventually need to perceive parts successively that previously were seen together, whole. With our adult, conceptual knowledge, we can say the principles of statics and strengths of materials keep the house together, self-same and standing, as we saw it from afar and saw it continuously right to our close-up of parts viewed successively. But we knew about the simultaneous whole enduring existence of and spatial perspectives of such things as houses or doors or rugs, as well as about our maneuvers and possible views, long before we learned concepts and principles of statics or geometry, indeed long before we had any concepts, abstract principles, or power of predication.

Kant would have our judgment “That is a house” depend in part on our percepts, but in part on some pure a priori fundamental concepts, the categories substance, cause of one thing by another, and community of things with each other (A144 B183–84; A182–218 B224–65). That would be sound were those fundamental concepts not taken as a priori, but as somehow derived ultimately from human evolution and development and from preconceptual perceptual observation and successful schemata of things as they are, which is to say, from preconceptual experience of things as they are.

But Kant has not allowed those fundamental concepts could be forms of things as they are, rather, as our minds have unwittingly made their form in order that they become objects of our experience and our judgment. In his view, our judgment “That is a house” is a judgment about an object whose spatial form is merely our form of outer sense, an object whose physical traits within that form are from it, where it is as appearance, an objective thing, though not the thing as it is in itself and where objectification is from fundamental concepts concordant with general forms of judgments for objects in experience, concepts schematized, nevertheless themselves independent of experience.

I have just ago rebutted one of Kant’s arguments for why a house is not perceivable to us as the thing it is in itself. He had claimed we could not perceive it as an object whose constituting parts were simultaneously with each other, yet we know that condition is so of the house in our experience of it, provided we bring pure concepts from the understanding to our succession of percepts. I denied the first claim in that argument, removing the putative conflict and need for its resolution by the object-prop of cognitive elements passing all perception, namely, pure a priori concepts. I shall elaborate in the sequel Kant’s erroneous conceptions of schemata and of time among our powers and elaborate what further implications this brings to his conception of empirical realism and of truth in empirical judgments.

Critique of Pure Reason would come to renown in German lands by end of the decade and would go on to forever change philosophy. But its first edition (1781) received no public comment from the philosophers Kant most respected, and it was painted as Berkeley and Hume warmed over by some philosophers he did not respect. Those early reviewers had not comprehended the new philosophy of the book very far. Though they rightly noted Kant’s affinities with Hume, they failed to notice his radical and original counter to Hume’s skepticism. They realized Kant’s idealism, but failed to notice its serious differences from and its counters to Berkeleyean idealism, wherein “to be is to be perceived,” matter is unreal, and space is not directly apprehended.

These circumstances spurred Kant to compose Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics that Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science, a shorter treatment of the subject matter in the Critique. The shorter treatise was aimed at philosophers entering or deep into metaphysics. It was meant to make his transcendental idealism more accessible and to set right the erroneous reviews of the Critique (Kant 1783, 4:255, 261–64; Kuehn 2001, 250–69; Sassen 2000, 1–11; Allison 2002, 6–11; Hatfield 2002, 32–35, 38–42). In this work, Kant addresses his main transcendental question of the Critique “How is synthetic a priori knowledge possible?” in four subdivisions, the second of which will be our special concern in the next installment because it bears heavily on Kant’s theory of empirical judgment. That question is “How is a pure science of nature possible?”

I think Kant not only tried to rebut the early reviewers’ portrayal of his idealism as close to Berkeley’s, a mere elevation of it. He searched out amendable elements in the 1781 Critique that might have led to that misperception (see also Beiser 1987, 175; Allison 2002, 462n11).

Kant had taken some trouble in the first edition of the Critique to refute Berkeley’s empirical and dogmatic idealism, refute by the lights of his own transcendental idealism (A368–72). Kant had expressly accepted the reality of matter (A370–72, 377; further, Friedman 2013, 43–46, 105–7, 413–17). It is neither a contradictory concept nor an empty one, contrary the arguments of Berkeley (Winkler 2008, 143–45). In Kant’s view, moreover, Berkeley had wrong the nature of space in our perceptions and its relation to material objects in our perception (A376–77; A491–92 B519–21; Emundts 2008, 117–18, 122–26).

"External things exist just as well as I myself exist—and both, moreover, on the direct testimony of my self-consciousness. The only difference is that the presentation of myself as the thinking subject is referred merely to inner sense, whereas the presentations designating extended beings are referred also to outer sense. I do not need to make an inference concerning the actuality of external objects any more than I do in regard to the actuality of the object of my inner sense (this object being my thoughts) . . . ." (A370–71)

"This is indubitably certain: whether we take the sensations called pleasure and pain, or—for that matter—those of the outer senses, such as colors, heat, etc., it is through perception that the material for thinking any objects of sensible intuition must first be given. This perception, then (to stay, for now, with outer intuitions only), presents something actual in space. For, first, perception is the presentation of an actuality, just as space is the presentation of a mere possibility of being together. Second, this actuality is presented to outer sense, i.e., in space." (A374)

Kant nevertheless seemed close to Berkeley, for Kant had confined matter and empirical realism to appearance, a reality whose most fundamental structures, time and space, he took to be from the side of the human subject and whose fundamental form according to necessary causal relations is also from the side of the subject. Kant had maintained that the reality that is matter is a kind of external presentation, called external not because its object is of itself external, but because such perceptions are referred “to the space wherein all things are external to one another, although the space itself is in us” (A370). As an empirical realist, the transcendental idealist “concedes to matter as appearance an actuality that does not need to be inferred but is directly perceived,” for objects of outer sense are not things “distinct from the senses themselves” (A371). In the dual system of empirical realism and transcendental idealism, “these external things—viz. matter—are in all their shapes and changes nothing but mere appearances, i.e., presentations in us, of whose actuality we become conscious directly” (A371–72).

Standing against Berkeley’s idealism also in the first edition of the Critique was Kant’s doctrine of the affinity of the manifold, a support of objectivity. The manifold of appearance has an affinity, or kinship, within itself that makes empirical rules of association possible. Call such affinity empirical affinity. It can teach us “that upon one appearance something else usually follows” (A113; also A121–22). This identity Kant would credit to appearance independently of the mind’s gift of causal necessity is a weak one. Behind empirical affinity is another affinity, an identity which is stronger: causal relation, whose necessity has its source in transcendental apperception, that is, in the self-sameness of the mutable, empirical self-conscious self. The synthetic unity of transcendental apperception is the source of the basic unity of every concept—including concepts of space and time, their intuitions having been referred to this apperception (A107)—and of causal law.

"Nothing can enter cognition without doing so by means of this original apperception. This identity must, then, necessarily enter into the synthesis of everything manifold in appearances, insofar as this synthesis is to become empirical cognition. Hence appearances are subject to a priori conditions to which their synthesis (of apprehension) must conform thoroughly. But the presentation of a universal condition according to which a certain manifold can be posited (hence posited in one and the same way {a regularity}) is called a rule; and if the manifold must be so posited, then the presentation is called a law. Therefore all appearances stand in a thoroughgoing connection according to necessary laws, and hence stand in a transcendental affinity of which the empirical affinity is the mere consequence." (A113–14; also 122–25)

Nature depends on and conforms to our subjective, transcendental apperception because “nature is intrinsically nothing but a sum of appearances, and hence is not a thing in itself, but is merely a multitude of the mind’s presentations” (A114).

Supposing even a weak identity in appearance independently of causal necessity brought from the mind to make experience possible, even with a run around such empirical affinity with transcendental affinity, was more realism than Kant could stably accommodate. It is at odds with transcendental idealism (see further, Westphal, chap. 3). Talk of such affinity in the manifold of appearance is largely eliminated in the second edition of the Critique (1787).

Mind-independent affinity of the manifold of appearance and transcendental affinity are given no role in the Prolegomena. A transcendental idealist counter to Hume’s skeptical reduction of causal necessities to mere contingent regularities would need to be mounted without that duo. However, absence of mind-independent affinity of the manifold could make Kant’s idealism seem even more like Berkeley’s. Any replacement counter to Hume must also stand pat against Berkeley.

In the Prolegomena, Kant introduces a distinction among empirical judgments, between (i) judgments of perception and (ii) judgments of experience. This is a distinction that can, without realist affinity, keep transcendental idealism fast against Hume’s skepticism concerning knowledge of the outer world while not decaying into a subjective idealism such as Berkeley’s. Not for long.

I shall relate and assess Kant’s distinction (i) from (ii) in the next installment. We shall then [in the sweet by and by?] examine Kant’s ultimate theory of empirical judgments as it stands in light of the second edition of the Critique (1787), Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786), and Critique of Judgment (1790). Assessment of Kant’s theory of empirical judgment will conclude this essay, and with all that in hand, I shall return to “Beauty, Goodness, Life,” where it is time to unfold Kant’s theories of esthetic judgment and teleological judgment, including their relation to the type of judgment unfolded in the present study.

Before leaving today’s engagement with Kant, I want to say against his doctrine of transcendental apperception. I submit that just as we can have smoothly changing distance from a house in view, thereby holding in perception coexisting parts of the house in a simultaneous whole, which parts can also be perceived successively, so our regular “empirical” self-consciousness has smooth telescope of time, buoying self-identity across episodes and making conceptual life possible (cf. ITOE App. 254–56).

(To be continued.)


Allison, H. 2002. Introduction to Immanuel Kant –Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. H. Allison and P. Heath, editors. Cambridge.

Beiser, F. C. 1987. The Fate of Reason. Harvard.

Emundts, D. 2008. Kant’s Critique of Berkeley’s Concept of Objectivity. In Garber and Longuenesse 2008.

Friedman, M. 2013. Kant’s Construction of Nature. Cambridge.

Garber, D., and B. Longuenesse, editors, 2008. Kant and the Early Moderns. Princeton.

Hatfield, G. 2002. Translator’s Introduction to Kant 1783. Cambridge.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.

——. 1783. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics that Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science. G. Hatfield, translator. In Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. H. Allison and P. Heath, editors. 2002. Cambridge.

Kuehn, M. 2001. Kant – A Biography. Cambridge.

Rand, A. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. 1990. Meridian.

Sassen, B., editor and translator, 2000. Kant’s Early Critics – The Empiricist Critique of the Theoretical Philosophy. Cambridge.

Westphal, K. R. 2004. Kant’s Transcendental Proof of Realism. Cambridge.

Winkler, K. P. 2008. Berkeley and Kant. In Garber and Longuenesse 2008.

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III.C  Empirical Judgment – Kant and Rand

A distinction should be drawn among empirical judgments, Kant proposes in the Prolegomena, between what he calls judgments of perception and judgments of experience. Both are based on immediate sensory perception, on the presentations of sensory intuition, and both require “logical connection of perceptions in a thinking subject” (1783, 4:298). Judgments of perception stop there. An example would be “If the sun shines on the stone, it becomes warm.” That judgment contains no necessity of being always true in the view of Kant, as in the view of Hume (and of Nicholas of Autrecourt in the fourteenth century). The perceptions are found conjoined, and stated to be so, but the connection between them is not a necessary one. To say, however, “The sun warms the stone” is in Kant’s view to state a necessary, though non-analytic connection according to a universal rule. This is an example of what he calls a judgment of experience. These not only have logical connection of perceptions in the thinking subject, or subjective validity, they rest on a pure a priori concept of the understanding and have objective validity (4:298–31).

Kant’s judgments of experience have his familiar way of precluding Humean skepticism by reconceiving human experience so as to have a priori factors that are necessary for our having experience, such factors providing the way we can find necessity and universality among empirical truths. Our minds have not put necessities such as causal necessity into things in themselves, only into appearance, which is Kant’s confine for empirical judgment (4:311). In the case of “The sun warms the stone,” one employs the pure category of the understanding causality. Kant’s thought in Prolegomena is that the judgment “If the sun shines on the stone, it becomes warm” contains no use of the category of causality nor any of the other eleven pure categories of the understanding. It does, however, state a relation of conjunction that truly obtains in appearance (4:312).

Subjective validity is a type of validity, and according to Kant, this type applies as well to “The room is warm, the sugar sweet, the wormwood repugnant.” These are subjectively valid judgments. Their relations are of sensations in the same subject on such and such occasions. “I do not at all require that I should find it so at every time, or that everyone else should find it just as I do” (4:299).

All of our judgments are at first mere judgments of perception; they hold only for us, i.e., for our subject, and only afterwards do we give them a new relation, namely to an object, and intend that the judgment should also be valid at all times for us and for everyone else; for if a judgment agrees with an object, then all judgments of the same object must also agree with one another, and hence the objective validity of a judgment of a experience signifies nothing other than its necessary universal validity. But also conversely, if we find cause to deem a judgment necessarily, universally valid (which is never based on the perception, but on the pure concept of the understanding under which the perception is subsumed), we must then also deem it objective, i.e., as expressing not merely a relation of a perception to a subject, but a property of an object; for there would be no reason why other judgments necessarily would have to agree with mine, if there were not the unity of the object—an object to which they all refer, with which they all agree, and, for that reason, also must harmonize among themselves. (4:298)

Notice that in Rand’s view, and mine, identity and its necessity includes more than its case in the central form of causality, dynamic production. “If the sun shines on stone, the stone warms” expresses identities of objects, their actions, and our interactions with them, even if not the law of identity as occasioned in the making of warmth in the stone by the sun. Furthermore, all cases of identity and its necessities, including identity of consciousness, are ways of existence itself and open to our identifications.

I said in the preceding section that like Kant’s 1781 distinction of the empirical manifold of appearances in its empirical affinity and the transcendental manifold in its transcendental affinity, Kant’s 1783 distinction between judgments of perception and judgments of experience would provide a defense against Humean skepticism (that is, against his more famous paths to skepticism). The design of this 1783 defense is weaker than the affinity-defense. The latter had empirical apperception being made possible by transcendental apperception. Kant has, however, not made judgments of perception dependent on judgments of experience. Perhaps a case for such dependence could have been made in his system, but he did not attempt it. The Humean skeptic could welcome Kant’s judgments of perception and say “And, oh, by the way, that is all there is to experience and judgments about it.”

Gerold Prauss (1971, in German) put forth a reconstruction of Kant’s distinction between judgments of perception and judgments of experience by which the former type of judgment would necessarily depend on the latter, pulling the rug from empiricist skepticism in the usual Kantian way. The judgments of perception are construed as “It seems to me . . .” judgments, putting Kant’s “If sunshine, warm stone” example into this mold. He argues that Kant should not have used the examples of tasting and feeling; they are not in the “It seems to me . . .” mold needed to make judgments of perception depend on judgments of experience (yet remain different from them). Judgments of perception under this construction problematically invoke categorically prescribed unity, though unlike judgments of experience, they do not assert that unity. This would be broadly sensible to Kant and to this Randian, for “It seems to me . . .” is not possible without some “It is . . .”, including “There is me” or “I am.” Robert Pippin examined this reconstruction and concluded that it is unsuccessful in showing that “It seems to me . . .” judgments necessarily invoke, and therefore necessarily depend upon, the categories. Pippin thought the judgment “It seems to me that the sun warms the stone” could be argued by sense-data phenomenalists to mean only “It seems to me that impressions of warmth follow upon impressions of light.” Judgments of perception could still be only combination of elements of awareness and free of reliance on objectification from the categories (Pippin 1982, 177–81).

From the window Pippin provides into the reconstruction of Prauss, that reconstructed position looks sound to me, as I think arguments of sense-data phenomenalists are fallacious by way of stolen concepts. Kant would agree with me on that, as shown for example in his arguments in the Critique for the dependence of inner sense upon outer sense (A193 B238, A380, 393, Bxxvii, 275–79). Of course, I would turn the dependence of identity in appearances on identity in knowable mind-independent reality upon Kant’s own conception of appearance in contrast to things in themselves. All the same, Prauss could be right in his proposal of what was sustainable in Kant’s proposal, within his transcendental idealism, of a distinction between mere judgments of perception and judgments of experience. I suspect, however, that there is necessarily in Kant’s system additional dependence on some of his categories, beyond their problematic invocation in statements such as “If the sun shines on the stone, the stone becomes warm.” Beyond Kant, too, such statements invoke objective identities in the world and in ourselves. So with my admittedly sparse knowledge of Prauss’ proposal, I bet it is not an adequate reconstruction of Kant, and so far, I leave open the possibility that Kant does not need the assistance of a reconstruction, only a right construction of what he said and neglected to say.

I noted some analogy between Kant’s 1781 distinction of empirical and transcendental affinity and his 1783 distinction between judgments of perception and judgments of experience. However, judgments of perception, in Kant’s express account, do not set up a relatively objective external norm as had the empirical affinity of the manifold of experience. Such judgments have determinacy by their content and by some “logical connection of perceptions in the thinking subject,” but such connection, though determinate and presumably not merely empirical association, seems at first blush not objectively normative (within Kant’s conception of logic, world, and mind). Unlike the empirical affinity of the manifold of appearances, which Kant relegated to the shadows after the first edition of the Critique, judgments of perception do not provide much defense against Berkeley. A radical dependence of judgments of perception on judgments of experience, with the object-fixing character of the latter in view, is desirable as a stay not only against Humean skepticism concerning causality, but against Berkleyean idealism eschewing matter.

Short of demonstrating such a dependence, there is a weaker relation of structure that might suffice. Let judgments of perception have always enough of logical connection and of categorical structure such that, given certain sorts of perceptual inputs, they are ready for additional structure by categories so as to become experience in Kant’s object-fixing sense. If such a sketch can be filled in, it might result in a conception of judgments of perception that nip empiricist skepticism in the bud. A purely associative notion of integration in human perception would receive no toehold at its most minimal level affording empirical affirmations in judgment. We shall come back to this sort of Kantian scheme in the sequel in connection with the work of Béatrice Longuenesse (1998).

To be sure, with the classical empiricists, the Randian should decline infusion of human perceptual experience with judgmental forms for the objectivity perceptual experience provides. Rather, the identity in and forms of judgment and their various necessities and contingencies must be dependent on structure in the world as attained in or through our elementary perceptions and schemata. The river of the world makes its perceptual channels and its right conceptual and logical channels as well.

I analyzed, in §II.D, preconceptual perception as having elementary know-how percepts and wider know-that observations, the latter wielding signs, at least iconic, and the question arises whether there is dependence between these two sorts of formation in perception parallel the possibility and desirability of dependence I have raised between Kant’s judgments of perception and judgments of experience. No. Percepts do not wait on observation for their deliverances of objects and events as existing and in the particular ways those objects and events are. Objects are delivered as objects in the percepts had by us and by other higher animals, regardless of any subsequent weave of observations from percepts or weave of concepts and perceptual judgments from percepts, observations, and schemata.

Might looking at the way Kant gets transcendental affinity to be necessary for empirical affinity suggest a way in which Kant’s judgments of perception require judgments of experience, notwithstanding the circumstance that Kant makes no such claim of dependence between these two types of judgment? Kant had empirical affinity of the manifold of appearance radically dependent on transcendental affinity of apperception, which is to say dependent on numerical identity of self (transcendental object) behind its empirically successive states, because this apperception, or awareness of self-identity, alone could provide the necessity of causal relations we know of nature (A113–14) and make possible the unification of all perceptions by their tie to one’s single unified self-consciousness. The unity is manifest in the fact that all one’s perceptions are experienced as one’s own and are an organized part of one’s whole life experience (A110, 121–22).

But Kant had also maintained that before the throne of transcendental apperception everything “must necessarily be subject to the universal functions of synthesis, viz., of that synthesis according to concepts in which alone apperception can prove a priori its thoroughgoing and necessary identity. Thus the concept of a cause is nothing but a synthesis according to concepts (where what follows in the time series is synthesized with other appearances); and without such unity, which has it’s a priori rule and which subjects appearances to itself, no thoroughgoing and universal and hence necessary unity of consciousness would be encountered in the manifold of perceptions. But then these perceptions would also not belong to any experience, and hence would be without an object; they would be nothing but a blind play of presentations—i.e., they would be less than a dream.” (A112)

Clearly, Kant’s 1783 judgments of perception are not blind play of the imagination and have more determinacy than a dream. For Kant’s idealism, they must be caught in the dynamic of transcendental apperception and necessities of some categories.

Kant conceived of the judgments of perception as a “logical connection of perceptions in a thinking subject,” yet not requiring any “pure concept of the understanding,” which is to say not requiring any of Kant’s categories (1783, 4:298). As Pippin observed, Kant is flatly wrong—if his system of transcendental idealism is to stand—in saying that such judgments, or any judgments, could run without force of any of the categories (Pippin 1982, 178). We shall rejoin this error and its possible repair in a Kantian way by Longuenesse in the sequel. There I shall resume the prospect of making all Kant’s judgments of perception dependent on his judgments of experience.

Paul Abela notes that even if we allowed Kant’s proposed judgments of perception to be independent of Kantian object-fixing by involvement of any categories or judgments of experience, content of such judgments of perception would yet have the determinacy of magnitude structures Kant thought necessarily attached to empirical intuitions, including to any such intuitions being affirmed in judgments of perception (A162–66 B202–7; Abela 2002, 88n8). I would add, and Abela would agree, that Kant’s magnitude structures of space and time and sensory intensity, in the subject-dependence with which Kant would conceive them (and with their lack of Objectivist generalization to all concrete relations whatsoever), can fortify the validity of judgments of perception, which Kant called subjective validity, but cannot give judgments of perception the armor against empirical skepticism and Berkeleyean idealism had by judgments of experience in their objective validity and object-normativity (see closing paragraphs of my §II.D).

I proposed analogy of the relation of Kant’s 1783 judgments of perception to judgments of experience with his 1781 relation of empirical affinity of the manifold of appearance to transcendental affinity. Henry Allison observed another, related analogy between the two kinds of empirical judgment proposed in 1783 and a distinction in 1781. Kant links judgments of perception with consciousness of one’s particular mental state and judgments of experience with “consciousness in general,” which latter consciousness has an object to which anyone’s consciousness anytime ought to agree in complete assurance of truth and by which consciousness is afforded mutual agreement with its own various occasions. Kant’s consciousness in general is here normative, quite like Rand’s “man’s life” is an objective norm with which to structure one’s own life and character. Allison observes that the de facto consciousness of one’s particular mental states bound up in Kant’s judgments of perception is the analogue of his non-normative empirical apperception in the first edition of the Critique. Kant’s normative “consciousness in general” bound up in his judgments of experience is analogue of transcendental apperception in the Critique (Allison 2002, 9–10). Allison would have us take into account the role of transcendental imagination in Kant’s theory of cognition to make best sense of Kant’s distinction of and relation between judgments of perception and judgments of experience on the one hand and, on the other hand, the distinction of and relation between empirical apperception and transcendental apperception in the Critique from A to B (Allison 2004, 173–201).

(To be continued.)


Abela, P. 2002. Kant’s Empirical Realism. Oxford.

Allison, H. E. 2002. Introduction to Immanuel Kant –Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. H. Allison and P. Heath, editors. Cambridge.

——. 2004 [1983]. Kant’s Transcendental Idealism – An Interpretation and Defense. Revised and enlarged 2nd edition. Yale.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.

——. 1783. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics that Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science. G. Hatfield, translator. In Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. H. Allison and P. Heath, editors. 2002. Cambridge.

Longuenesse, B. 1998. Kant and the Capacity to Judge – Sensibility and Discursivity in the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason. Harvard.

Pippin, R. B. 1982. Kant’s Theory of Form – An Essay on the Critique of Pure Reason. Yale.

Prauss, G. 1971. Erscheinung bei Kant. de Gruyter.

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III.D  Empirical Judgment – Kant and Rand

As of Prolegomena (1783), Kant held that what he was calling our judgments of experience begin as mere judgments of perception. He thought there were some judgments of perception that could not become judgments of experience.

I shall argue that although Kant was mistaken in supposing there are any such recalcitrant judgments of perception, his distinction between the two kinds is shadow of a right distinction, a distinction between judgments of percepts and judgments of observation. Neither Kant’s judgments of perception nor my judgments of percepts are merely a report of associations, but of objective presentations. Kant’s judgments of experience and my judgments of observation are wider integrations than their thinner brothers in empirical judgment.

Judgments of experience include application of Kant’s category of causality; judgments of perception do not. Judgments of observation include basic ontology of Randian identity in conceptual form, including causality in conceptual form, in addition to the bare-bones triple identity that can be found in any predicative judgments, including judgments of percepts.

Observation in the course of action or action planning is our home form of empirical judgments. “No one would bother with the conscious judgment that the surface of the puddle exhibits a familiar pattern of ripples; we go straight to the conclusion that it is raining” (Kelley 1986, 209) Observation judgments can proceed without waiting to form percept judgments. Rather, the latter can be formulated subsequently upon percepts that entered the observation and its report.

But first, Kant. His examples for judgments of perception that cannot be reformed into judgments of experience were “The room is warm, the sugar sweet, the wormwood repugnant” (1783, 4:299).

Kant conceived of predicative judgments, particular or general, as saying “There is something x to which the subject concept applies and to which the predicate concept also applies” or “To everything x for which the subject concept applies, the predicate concept applies” (see Kant 1800, §36, 607). This pattern coincides with the first identity, a particular identity, of the triple identity I have drawn out for predicative existential judgments (Boydstun 1991).

The reason Kant gave, it will be recalled, for saying “The room is warm” is a judgment of perception that cannot be reformed into a judgment of experience was: in such a claim, one does not expect others necessarily to find the room warm at this time and one does not expect oneself to find the room warm at all times. I think Kant’s thinking behind that rather flimsy reason was that this judgment, which is on its face about the room, is an attribution of a secondary sensory quality, and such qualities belong, strictly speaking, to the percipient (see Hatfield 2011, 311–22).

In Kant’s day, there was no scientific explanation for “The room is warm” in the sense “I am feeling the room warm.” Likewise, there was no explanation for why I feel the stone warm or for why I feel the stone warm by one bare foot, yet with the other bare foot, the blanket on the ground next to the stone not warm. Today we know that specific sensory receptors in our skin for relative environmental warmth (not burning) are sensors of rate of heat flow into the body. We understand now what are the relations of rate of heat flow, temperature difference, and thermal conductivities. More and more, where the x is a percipient subject, its neural physiology is understood. Kant was mistaken to think “I am feeling the room warm” to be a judgment of perception that cannot become a judgment of experience. It can remain a judgment about an individual and her environment, concerning only a particular occasion and based on information at hand only for that individual, yet become one of Kant’s judgments of experience, engaging our thermodynamics and neuroscience.

“The stone is warm” can be taken with the sense “The stone’s thermal condition and mine, together with my nervous organization, are causing my feeling of warmth,” or more generally, “Thermal conditions of stone and sentient body are causing a certain state in a sentient organism.” That the perception is explicable by causality in at least a somewhat specific way is sufficient for transforming its reports by judgments of perception into reports by judgments of experience invoking Kant’s concept of causality.

Kant’s understanding of the latter had to be vague by our standards, considering that the basics of conductive heat transfer would not be discovered for a decade and two beyond 1783. Also, Kant evidently did not learn of the concept of latent heat that had been established by Joseph Black and Johan Wilcke until 1785–1790 (Friedman 1992, 271–99). Kant likely did know of recent work beginning mathematical treatment of radiative heat transfer, loosely pertinent to warming of the stone by the sun (Friedman 1992, 292n112; 2013, 592n59; Longuenesse 1998, 179n27). One did not need any knowledge of the emerging science of heat in those days to know that sunlight causes a stone to warm, just as surely as one would know that sunlight causes a plant to live. For his judgments of experience, Kant did have in view their potential for having their causes scientifically elaborated, but we have some causal relations in hand before the science of them.

Where “The room is warm” is considered as “I am feeling the room warm,” Kant would not countenance the possibility of objectivity or scientific causal articulation. But where “The room is warm” is considered as statement on physical environment in which something or other made the room warm—say, the fire one built in the fireplace—Kant takes us to be making predications and classifications that reflect objective character. If Kant had our modern science, could he not admit the objectivity of “I am feeling the room warm” and do so for his usual reason, namely we are able to give a causal account, even one expressed mathematically, one in which concepts are designated not merely by repeated occasions, but, in his scheme of mind and world, by characteristics given in empirical intuition and by mesh into conceptual hierarchy that is an edifice of the understanding with necessary connections imparted from the transcendental synthetic unity of apperception?

No, and that is a serious difference between Kant and Rand. Kant cannot take the position offered in my question and yet hang on to his transcendental idealism. His idealism requires not only that fundamental concepts, the categories, be creatures of the transcendental synthesis of apperception; there must be some formal aspect of empirical intuitions that depend on that same synthesis (A124–25, B137–38, 151–54, 160–63). Specifically, that formal aspect is space, and our geometry of space with its extensive magnitudes and its role in scientific characterization of causal law cannot, in Kant’s philosophy, derive from sensory content in empirical intuitions (e.g., A267–68 B323–24). A wall must be maintained between the extensive magnitudes of outer experience and the merely intensive magnitudes of sensory content (A166–71 B207–13). That wall was breached by Ernst Weber and Gustav Fechner in the nineteenth century, and the neo-Kantians resisted (Heidelberger 2004, 200–207, 214–24; cf. Longuenesse 1998, 310–22). Such a breach suggests a path for eventual causal, mathematically represented explanation of mind and its fundamental concepts by a world and information from that world in its structure without mind. It suggests that formal traction on the world is possible without generation of the world’s fundamental forms by transcendental synthetic unity of apperception.

In Kant’s theory of concepts and judgments, we can compare and differentiate perceptual presentations prior to their subsumption under objective concepts (A269 B325), that is, without yet considering whether things (appearances of transcendental objects) in the perceptual presentations do themselves stand in such relations as are found among their presentations (A260–62 B316–18). This alleged priority is backwards, both genetically and analytically, and this is the fundamental difference between what Kant calls a mere judgment of perception (as distinct from a judgment of experience) and what I call a judgment of percept (as distinct from a judgment of observation).

It is to Kant’s credit that he would have conceptual representations of perceptual presentations be schematized, whether or not those representations are yet assimilated under his categories. That is a right orientation of mind to the nature of empirical presentations and the objects they present. Even better orientation would not speak of schematized concepts, but of conceptualized schemata in speaking of our schematic concepts. Our actual schematic concepts are more primitive than Kant’s (A142–46 B182–85). They name prelinguistic schemata with which we continue to perceive in our later conceptual development (Arbib, Èrdi, and Szentágothai 1998, 36–40; Flavell 1963, 52–58; Shaw and Hazelett 1986; Johnson 1987; Hampe 2005; Mandler 2010; Raftopoulos 2009, 89–106, 131–66, 311–48; Burge 2010, 319–436). Furthermore, contrary Kant’s view, objects are already given as objects and as existing objects in our perceptions engaging merely elementary, prelinguistic schemata, which is to say, in our percepts and observations (Brewer 2011; Smith 2002, chap. 5; Kelley 1986, 44–50, 141–65; Ghate 2013, 90–92; cf. Hatfield 2009, chap. 7).

Kant thought of his judgments of perception as those in which “I merely compare the perceptions and connect them in a consciousness of my state” (1783, 4:300). The judgment “I am feeling the room warm” would fit that bill. We have seen that Kant erred in thinking such a judgment cannot be objective due to it being a judgment about an individual percipient subject. He erred in supposing such a judgment cannot be supplemented with causal information transforming it into what he called a judgment of experience. In truth one cannot assert “I feel the room warm” without schemata of potentials of one’s body, including schemata for one’s potential actions with respect to a room. Although Kant did not seem to realize it, his judgments of perception require more than what he called reflection, more that is, than comparisons and differentiations of presentations without verdict on whether those relations attach to the “appearances” themselves (A260–68 B316–24).

Judgments of perception engage the schemata of our percepts and, as well, the causal schemata of our observations, both inherited from our cognitive development prior to language (Carey 2009). This is not to say judgments of perception depend on judgments of experience.

Ditto for my judgments of percepts. They engage schemata of percepts and causal schemata of observations. They need not depend on judgments of observations. One can judge “Something moved” or “Something sounded” or “Someone is present” without further specification, without answer to who is present or to what moved or sounded and how. One can judge “Something went past the window” without answering such questions as “What went past the window and how did it convey?” Implicit in the judgment of percept “Something went past the window” are the judgments “That moving thing exists” and “Left-right exists” and “The window exists.” These too are judgments of percepts, dependent on percepts and observations, but not dependent on judgments of observation. In their topic, judgments of observation get beyond conceptualized spatial situation and kinematics, on into conceptualized statics and dynamics.

Recall Rand’s definition of knowledge “a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation” (ITOE 35). I have proposed that all perceptual observation that is knowledge is guided partly by conceptualized past experience (§II.C). But we should allow that we have knowledge in our perceptual observations prior to acquiring any concepts. I have said that affirmation and denial have become our powers already with the development of working memory, which is to say already with preconceptual observations (§III.A). So I should generalize and say that all perceptual observation, all of that form of knowledge, is guided partly by conceptualized or schematized past experience.

Although I do not count a percept as knowledge, unlike an observation, which is counted as knowledge; a judgment of percept is knowledge-that, which is to say it is knowledge, for a judgment of percept engages not only the percept, but some past observations and concepts in hand. “Any judgment ‘goes beyond’ what is given, by assimilating it to abstract types and attributes, and we are aware of these abstractions only through the integration of other perceptual data” (Kelley 1986, 210; further, 218–24).

The merely “logical connection of perceptions in a thinking subject,” Kant’s formula for judgments of perception (1783, 4:298), requires apprehension of existents. Kant does not assent to that requirement, but it is so. There are no conceptual cognitions, no logical connections of anything, without guidance by existence, utilizing our prelinguistic image and action schemata (Prinz 2002, chap. 6; Barsalou 2008; Noë 2006; Churchland 2012). Kant surmises correctly the need for a qualitative distinction between his judgments of perception—a need remaining even when judgments in that class are laden with existence, as I should have them—and his judgments of experience. As we shall see, he did not reach the basis of this distinction.

(To be continued.)


Arbib, M. A., Èrdi, P., and J. Szentágothai 1998. Neural Organization – Structure, Function, and Dynamics. MIT.

Barsalou, L. W. 2008. Situated Cognition. In The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition. P. Robbins and M. Aydede, editors. Cambridge.

Boydstun, S. 1991. Induction on Identity. Objectivity 1(3):1–56.

Brewer, B. 2011. Perception and Its Objects. Oxford.

Burge, T. 2010. Origins of Objectivity. Oxford.

Carey, S. 2009. The Origin of Concepts. Oxford.

Churchland, P. M. 2012. Plato’s Camera – How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals. MIT.

Flavell, J. H. 1963. The Developmental Psychology of Jean Piaget. D. Van Norstrand.

Friedman, M. 1992. Kant and the Exact Sciences. Harvard.

——. 2013. Kant’s Construction of Nature. Cambridge.

Ghate, O. 2013. Perceptual Awareness as Presentational. In Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge – Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology. A. Gotthelf and J. G. Lennox, editors. Pittsburgh.

Hampe, B., editor, 2005. From Perception to Meaning – Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics. Walter de Gruyter.

Hatfield, G. 2009. Perception and Cognition. Oxford.

——. 2011. Kant and Helmholtz on Primary and Secondary Qualities. In Primary and Secondary Qualities – The Historical and Ongoing Debate. Oxford.

Heidelberger, M. 2004. Nature from Within – Gustav Theodor Fechner and His Psychophysical World View. Pittsburgh.

Johnson, M. 1987. The Body in the Mind – The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason. Chicago.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.

——. 1783. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics that Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science. G. Hatfield, translator. In Immanuel Kant – Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. H. Allison and P. Heath, editors. 2002. Cambridge.

——. 1800. Jäsche Logic. In Immanuel Kant – Lectures on Logic. J. M. Young, translator. 1992. Cambridge.

Kelley, D. 1986. The Evidence of the Senses. Louisiana State.

Longuenesse, B. 1998. Kant and the Capacity to Judge– Sensibility and Discursivity in the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason. Princeton.

Mandler, J. M. 2010. The Spatial Foundations of the Conceptual System. Language and Cognition 2(1):21–44.

Noë, A. 2006. Action and Perception. MIT.

Raftopoulos, A. 2009. Cognition and Perception – How Do Psychology and Neural Science Inform Philosophy? MIT.

Rand, A. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. 1990. Meridian.

Shaw, R. E., and W. M. Hazelett 1986. Schemas in Cognition. In Event Cognition: An Ecological Perspective. V. McCabe and G. J. Balzano, editors. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Smith, A. D. 2002. The Problem of Perception. Harvard.

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III.E  Empirical Judgment – Kant and Rand

I mentioned two constructions of declarative statements such as “The room is warm” or “The stone is growing warmer.” They may be taken as “I feel the room warm” or “I feel the stone grow warmer.” Under this construction, the statements mean “If I enter the room, I feel it warm” or “If I touch the stone at intervals, I feel it warming.” As we have seen, Kant would not count these hypothetical judgments of perception as reflecting an objective state of affairs and as amenable to being developed into objective, possibly scientific judgments. He was wrong about that.

Kant correctly observed that predicative statements such as “The stone is growing warmer” or “The stone has weight” are also and plainly construed as about the stone. Similarly it is with “Bodies are heavy,” meaning “Bodies have weight.” The copula is in these predicative judgments indicates we are stating a relation of objective validity. In this construction, according to Kant, we are stating relations from the understanding, not relations (as in Hume) from reproductive imagination. Under this construction, this one at least, “a judgment is nothing but a way of bringing given cognitions to the objective unity of apperception” (B142). The copula is “indicates the reference of the presentations to original apperception and its necessary unity. The reference to this necessary unity is there even if the judgment itself is empirical and hence contingent—e.g., Bodies are heavy. By this I do not mean that these presentations belong necessarily to one another in the empirical intuition. Rather, I mean that they belong to one another by virtue of the necessary unity of apperception in the synthesis of intuitions; i.e., they belong to one another according to principles of the objective determinations of all presentations insofar as these presentations can become cognition—all of these principles being derived from the principle of the transcendental unity of apperception. Only through this [reference to original apperception and its necessary unity] does this relation [among presentations] become a judgment, i.e., a relation that is valid objectively and can be distinguished adequately from a relation of the same presentations that would have only subjective validity—e.g., a relation according to laws of association. According to these laws, all I could say is: When I support a body, then I feel the pressure of heaviness. I could not say: It, the body, is heavy—which amounts to saying that these two presentations are not merely together in perception (no matter how often repeated), but are combined in the object, i.e., combined independently of what the subject’s state is.” (B142)

Recall from the preceding section of this essay that in his logic lectures Kant conceived of predicative judgments, particular or general, as saying “There is something x to which the subject concept applies and to which the predicate concept also applies” or “To everything x for which the subject concept applies, the predicate concept applies” (see Kant 1800, 607; cf. 1764, 294; 1770, 411). This pattern coincides with the first identity, a particular identity, of the triple identity I have drawn out for predicative existential judgments (Boydstun 1991, 43–45).

What Kant is posing in B142 is that identity of subject and predicate, a particular identity by way of connection to a common object x, has its ultimate, “original” source of unity not in the object. Rather, the unity as found in the object and as reported of the object is really ultimately from the understanding with which we handle the objectively given. This is a construal of predicative judgments as contrived as the Humean reduction of objective attributions to associative relations.

Each of those two winding construal retains an indirect sense of objectivity, wherein common character of the human mind across individuals engaged in the world can be winnowed from the idiosyncratic. When Kant says that results of laws of association have only a subjective validity, he is not trying to combine the idiosyncratic with the notion of validity (cf. Kant c. 1770, 45, 93). He is not claiming Hume’s picture or his own class of judgments he calls judgments of perception to be lacking any indirect sort of objectivity. Hence: subjective validity (cf. subjective universality, c. 1780, 810; 1792, 706, 709; universal semblance, 1800, 39). Kant is saying that regular associative mental powers—powers healthy, needed, and not idiosyncratic—do not yield legitimate attributions to objects in appearance. Our predicative judgments of objects, our judgments of experience, do make legitimate attributions to objects in appearance, and they are able to do so because such objects are not things in themselves, because there is content in empirical intuition independent of our mind and its forms, and because the synthetic unity of apperception provides the unity of objects in sensory intuition as well as the unity in a judgment about them.

In Prolegomena Kant had observed “there would be no reason why other judgments necessarily would have to agree with mine, if there were not the unity of the object—an object to which they all refer, with which they all agree, and, for that reason, also must harmonize among themselves” (1783, 298; see also A820–23 B848–51; 1786a, 144–46). In Critique of Practical Reason, Kant reiterates “universality of assent does not prove the objective validity of a judgment (i.e. its validity as cognition) but only that, even if universal assent should happen to be correct, it could still not yield a proof of agreement with the object; on the contrary, only objective validity constitutes the ground of a necessary universal agreement” (1788, 13). (The external criterion or touchstone of truth, concurrence from others, is evidently taken up by Kant from G. F. Meier’s logic text from which Kant lectured; c. 1770, 45–46, 81, 93, 150, 178–79, 187–88, 234; c. 1780, 806, 853, 873–74; 1792, 706, 721, 740, 746; 1800, 36–37, 48, 57, 80.) In those statements, Kant gets right the order—trueness in reason to object, concurrence of other minds in their reason concerning the object—even if he massively errs by the constitutive role he gives to forms of sensory intuition and fundamental a priori concepts in the presentation of objects (see also Allison 2004, 88–89).

In his refutation of Hume’s empiricism and skepticism, Kant maintains there is no way someone might discover “that there is and can be no a priori cognition at all. . . . [That] would be tantamount to someone’s wanting to prove by reason that there is no reason” (1788, 12; cf. c. 1780, 885–86; 1800, 84).

“For, we say that we cognize something by reason only when we are aware that we could have known it even if it had not presented itself as it did in experience; hence rational cognition and cognition a priori are one and the same. It is an outright contradiction to want to extract necessity from an empirical proposition (ex pumice aquam [water from a pumice stone]) and to give a judgment, along with necessity, true universality (without which there is no rational inference . . .). To substitute subjective necessity, that is, custom, for objective necessity, which is to be found only in a priori judgments, is to deny to reason the ability to judge an object, that is, to cognize it and what belongs to it; it is to deny, for example, that when something often or always follows upon a certain prior state one could infer it from that (for this would mean objective necessity and the concept of an a priori connection) and to say only that we may expect similar cases (just as animals do), that is, to reject the concept of cause fundamentally as false and a mere delusion of thought.” (1788, 12)

It is right here that Kant’s denial that universal assent is sufficient for validating the truth of judgments—their agreement of judgments with their objects—is put to work. Hume did not take up a universal imagistic empiricism, for he exempted arithmetic, algebra, and logic. But with Hume’s doctrine that custom can explain objective relations, there is no concordant reason for those exemptions.

It is well known that Hume “asked nothing more than that a mere subjective meaning of necessity, namely custom, be assumed in place of any objective meaning of necessity in the concept of cause . . . .” (1788, 13). Extending Hume’s principle to arrive at a truly universal empiricism lands one in an absurd conflict of reason with itself and, hence, in total skepticism. Mathematics “inevitably comes into conflict with a reason that admits only empirical principles” (13). For example, if mathematics “proves incontestably the infinite divisibility of space, which empiricism cannot allow, then the greatest possible evidence of demonstration is in manifest contradiction with the alleged inferences from empirical principles . . .” (13). Universal empiricism leaves no touchstone against skepticism of experience, where experience “consists not of feelings only but also of judgments,” such as the touchstones that are the a priori principles of mathematics.

Kant’s theories about how it is that arithmetic and geometry apply to the world are untrue. And Hume’s reasoning to the atomicity of space and time were unsound anyway (Boydstun 1991, 18–20). Kant was onto something nevertheless. Although we do not require Kant’s doctrines of synthetic a priori intuition for modern mathematics, it remains that careful postulates of an area of mathematics, such as incidence postulates of the Euclidean plane, are in addition to the axioms and inference rules of logic. And though such postulates can be exemplified empirically—a four-legged table is more apt to rock than is a three-legged table because three points determine a plane (my example)—their credit as postulates for an area of mathematics is not by durability under empirical test. Kant takes some universal concurrence (such as we have, so far as we have, concerning logic and mathematics) about objects to be a sort of objectivity, one not stemming ultimately from character of objects as they are in appearance, but from given formal character of the subject in the intuition, conception, and judgment of objects in appearance.

To the score of Kant over empiricist Hume, we may mark two points. The incidence of judgments of experience in human experience and knowledge is extensive, and custom from repeated association cannot account for our powers of concepts and judgments, including concept and judgment of causality. Mathematics, especially geometry, figures large in our empirical knowledge, and Hume is unsuccessful in accounting by perception and custom for the geometric method and results in Euclid and for the integral effectiveness of geometry in Newton’s mechanics and induction to universal gravitation (cf. Allison 2008, 83–87; De Pierris 2012; Norman 2006; De Pierris and Friedman 2008, §3).

In the hypothetical judgment “If the sun shines on the stone, the stone grows warm,” Kant’s favored example of a judgment of perception (1783), he does not take “the stone grows warm” as if it said “I am feeling the stone warmer and warmer.” He takes it in the external-appearance way, as about the stone (1800, 114). He distinguishes, however, between simply stating “The stone grows warm” and that same statement as consequent in the hypothetical judgment. Embedded in the hypothetical judgment, “the stone grows warm” is connected to another physical condition as one of its grounds (A73 B98). Traditionally, ground had been a reason for why something is, where the reason was both logical and ontological (Longuenesse 1998, 99–101, 345–48; Correia and Schnieder 2012, 1–9). A ground might be causal as in “If burning, a candle shortens,” but it need not be. Not causal would be the ground in “If a thing is an animal, then it is a living thing” or “If a figure is a triangle, then the figure’s angles sum to two right angles.”

Kant describes the relation of the consequent to the antecedent in hypothetical judgment as a problematic relation, in contrast to an assertoric one. By this he means that in the hypothetical form of judgment, we suspend assessment of the truth of the antecedent; we note only its susceptibility of such an assessment and the possibility of merely entertaining it as true. The only truth we assess in the hypothetical frame of mind is the ability of the inference from antecedent to consequent to propagate truth (A74–76 B100–101, A646–51 B674–79, A822 B850). Thereby, a valid consequent can be used to probe truth of its problematic antecedent in an application of logic; a valid consequent that is false implies falsity of the antecedent (B112, 114; A411 B438; A610–12 B638–40; A790–91 B818–19; 1792, 721).

Kant allows that in the hypothetical frame of mind we recognize that true following of a consequent from antecedent is due to the antecedent being some sort of ground for the consequent. The grounding could be a necessary one or a contingent one. Because life is an essential characteristic of animals, one may rightly say not only the hypothetical “If a thing is an animal, then it is a living thing,” but “All animals are living things” were one to go on and discern the grounding relation of the hypothetical judgment.

Life is a condition internal to being an animal. A triangle’s three angles summing to two right angles is a condition internal to being a triangle. Burning of a candle is not a condition internal to candle, its length, or its alteration of length. Exposure to sunlight is not a condition internal to stone or its warming. (On internal/external see A265–66 B321–22; A274–75 B330–31; A277–78 B333–34; A283–85 B339–42; c. 1770, 87–88, 106–7, 113, 123–25; c. 1780, 838–39, 919–21; 1792, 725, 727.)

How does one determine whether the external relation of candle burning to candle length is a necessary one or a contingent one? What are the physical contingent conditions within which it is a physically necessary one, otherwise contingent? How does one determine that character for the external relation of a stone’s exposure to sunlight and the stone’s warming? Is that determination made in the same strokes by which Kant would have judgments of perception transformed into judgments of experience? Though we do not accede to Kant’s view that all (even any) judgments of experience derive from judgments of perception, these questions recur (i) concerning logical, not genetic, relations between those two types of judgment, (ii) concerning genetic passage from percepts and their action schemata to observations and (iii) concerning genetic passage from phenomena to scientific law (on the last: Newton 1726; Stein 1991; Harper 2002; 2011; Smith 2002; cf. Harriman 2010, chaps. 1–4).

Answers to these questions as they tie to Kant’s vista take one along the course of his objective validity in which powers of understanding and judgment are constitutive and determinative of objects of experience and laws of nature, not only reflective and not only regulative of our apprehension (A644–64 B672-92; 1790, 179–86; 1800, 131–32; Longuenesse 1998, 163–65). Kant points to Francis Bacon and to Newton along the way in his grapple with these questions, transfiguring the crown achievement of Newton in Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (Kant 1786b; Freidman1992, chaps. 3–4, 242–64; 2013). There is another sort of objective validity set forth by Kant in which the power of judgment and ideas of reason are only reflective and only regulative of our right thinking and action. The latter type of objective validity pertains saliently to the teleological judgments of biology, to esthetic judgments, and to rational faith, and it pertains as background for the possibility of empirical judgments and their organization with each other.

It might seem that in the problematic stance of a hypothetical judgment (conditional judgment) one is asserting less than in an assertoric judgment. That would be correct in comparison with an assertoric judgment that specified the grounding relation of the hypothetical judgment. Also, if one takes hypothetical judgments to be true where the antecedent may be without any truth and hence fail to ground the consequent, as in modern material implication, they assert less than hypothetical judgments asserted for reason of having some grounding relation or other (on hypothetical judgments with the Greeks, see Kneale and Kneale 1962, 12–38; late medieval – Aho and Yrjönsuri 2009, 61–66; Leibniz – Capozzi and Roncaglia 2009, 121; Peirce – Hilpinen 2009; today – Nozick 1981, 248–51, 261–63; 2001, 86–87; Priest 2001, 9–15, 58–72, 162–206; Mares 2004, chap. 1; Aberdein and Read 2009, 668–82; Patterson 2012, chap. 7). Kant is not interested in hypothetical judgments taken for true and as possibly having no grounding relation (see c. 1770: hypothetical judgment 276–77, 285, provisional judgment 161–64, supposition 195–97, hypothesis 220–24, 230, and proofs 233–34, 279, 285; see also c. 1780, 824, 850, 885–89, 892, 910, 916, 932–35; 1792, 719, 724, 732, 735–38, 763–66, 772, 776; 1800, 51–53, 66–67, 74–75, 84–85, 96, 105–6, 108–9, 121–22, 129), and Kant’s causally grounded hypothetical judgments are more stringent than mere material implication (Kitcher 1998, 234).

It is not the case in general, however, that a hypothetical judgment asserted as true and as having some ground or another asserts less than any assertoric judgment. The proposition if p then q is logically equivalent to not-(p and not-q). The latter is assertoric. Moreover, assertion of those two negations is substantial and dependent on right assertive powers concerning p and q (A72–73 B97–98,  A574–75 B602–3, A708–9 B737–38; c. 1770, 110, 156, 255, 275; c. 1780, 836, 929–35; 1792, 764; 1800, 59–60, 103–4). Since Kant’s hypothetical judgments have some ground or other, problematically, the not outside the parenthesis in the conjunctive logical equivalent has to be read as denial of a conjunction that is posed upon some ground or other, not mere, free conjunction. This way of looking at hypothetical judgments in Kant’s day would also be the way in my own vista of basic logic, as never parting from identification.

According to notes from Kant’s logic lectures of 1792, he calls problematic a judgment in which one merely posits that a triangle has six sides (719). Perhaps he had in mind putting such a posit into a hypothetical “If a triangle had six sides, it would have six interior angles.” The antecedent seems to provide some ground for the consequence or anyway it points to the grounding relation that figures closed by straight lines have equal numbers of sides and angles, which is not a posit.

Kant’s logical plane of problematic reflection is unstable because he attempts to separate logic, general and transcendental, from our interest in logic, which is truth, which is not only agreement of cognition with itself, but is relation to real objects, including concrete ones (contra A55-59 B79–84; A76–77 B102; A78 B104; A154–55 B193–94). That interest rightly conditions all formality and normativity of logic. The object of formal logic can be merely any possible such object, all such objects designated, for example, under determinate something (cf. Kant 1800, 95, 99).

The normativity of logic is ultimately from normativity of life, thence life by thought on world. Kant’s incorrect thesis that general logic can be formal without any structure from content and can be normative yet not derived from empirical reality nor conformed to ontology precipitates his program of setting the basic forms of judgment and the fundamental categories in judgment to normativity of that same incorrect character. (On Kant’s logic in the history of logic, see Capozzi and Roncaglia 2009; on the failure of Kant’s formalism, see Pippin 1982.)

Notice that judgment p and judgment q in if p then q and in not-(p and not-q) are judgments of experience within the problematic hypothetical judgment whose external grounding relations (i.e., causal relations) are unknown or unspecified. “The stone warms” or “The candle shortens” already report determinate changes having excluded contraries (cooling and lengthening) and having definite rates and durations. Kant’s judgment of perception lies in the problematic character of the relation of its antecedent to its consequent. I suggest, for closer scrutiny in other essays in the future, that the degree to which that character is problematic covaries with the degree to which not-q has not been elaborated among contraries and that there is some dynamic between specification of causal grounding relation of antecedent to consequent and the degree to which not-q has been elaborated among contraries. It remains that discovery of specific causal relation requires observation and, often, mathematical characterizations. One can observe melted wax of the candle flame entering the wick and flame, and one can observe the dryness of the top of the wick and the smoke emerging from the top of the flame. One can observe, that far, a causal link between “The candle burns” and “The candle shortens.” One must resort to more rarified concepts, such as heat or caloric, and to their mathematical characterization to attain a comparable understanding of causal linkage between “The stone is exposed to sunlight” and “The stone warms.”

Where p is q, we have not-(p and not-p), which is the principle of noncontradiction. There the not-q, which is not-p, is bare negation and reports minimal information. Kant’s judgments of perception never have a negation that impoverished of standing among contraries. Kant seems cognizant of some different strengths of negation and their different informative merit (A72–73 B97–98; c. 1780, 929–31; 1792, 764; 1800, 104), but I have not found him realizing that his p’s and q’s as they are constituents in judgments of perception are themselves decidedly judgments of experience, and I have not seen him point out the logical equivalence between if p then q and not-(p and not-q) at all, let alone attempt to plot, with a view to that equivalence, the relation of hypothetical judgment of perception to noncontradiction on the one hand, to p causes q on the other. (On history of thought on strengths of negation, see Horn 2001, table on 140–41 and supporting text.)

Kant’s nonarbitrariness of antecedent to consequent in his judgments of perception, such as in “If exposed to sunlight, stone warms,” can go so far as to stand them problematically in his category of relation that is causality, where the specific causal structure is unknown but can be found. In this way, I suggest, Kant’s judgments of perception wear the armor against empirical skepticism and Berkeleyean idealism worn by judgments of experience in their objective validity and object-normativity. Problematic judgments of perception are anticipatory of and bear allegiance to possible specification among problematically held alternatives that would transform those judgments into judgments of experience (cf. Longuenesse 1998, 99–104, 176–88, 347–75, 394–99; Allison 2002, 9–10; 2004, 173–201, 211–18, 223–24, 229–36, 256–60).

We have seen Kant say that judgments of experience have objective validity, whereas judgments of perception have subjective validity. I have argued to the contrary that Kant’s judgments of perception (or my judgments of percepts) can have objectivity. We agree they state regularities in hypothetical form wherein there is some grounding relation or other between antecedent and consequent. But because I think there are not judgments of perception without percepts of objects as existing and acting, and there are not judgments of perception without observations—even if not judgments of observation (or Kant’s judgments of experience)—it is misleading to say true judgments of perception have subjective validity as against objective validity. That some true perceptual judgments make essential reference to the subject, not only to objects and their relations, does not exclude their objectivity in the normative sense. It is misleading to say they do not have objective validity merely because they are not wholly about objects. Furthermore, true perceptual judgments, such as “If stone is exposed to sunlight, it warms,” which are wholly about objects and their relations, should not be taken for not objective on account of the grounding relation between antecedent and consequent being left undetermined, problematic. Kant’s judgments of perception should be recognized as having an objective validity differing from that in judgments of experience only by having topic not wholly about objects and their relations or by having specific grounding relations between antecedents and consequences of warranted hypothetical judgments left unknown. Whatever their topic, it is by identification of the grounding relations of antecedent and consequent in the judgment of perception that—speaking not genetically, as Kant, but only analytically—transforms it into a judgment of experience and transforms its objective validity into a more deeply embedded objective validity.

That we find stones become warm after sunlight upon them and not the other way around; that the stones become warmer, not cooler, after sunlight upon them; that we find stones in other circumstances can be warmed by other means than by the sun shining on them; and that sunlight melts wax, but hardens clay (A766 B794), are constraints and flexibilities in possibility that Kant did not think could be accounted for on a purely associational account of all structure we find in the world. I agree. We agree also that the nature of mathematics and its role in expression and discovery of natural law is not plausibly explained purely by association.

Kant erred in thinking particular occasions in which we find exposure to sunlight preceding stone-warming have that necessity of that sequence, instead of its reverse, from application of our conceptual grasp of causality (B233–34). In truth such given necessity is grasped on each occasion by our prelinguistic powers of perception and observation.

Kant thought that there are general structural constraints on all objects and their interrelations. An important example would be that “all changes occur according to the law of connection of cause and effect” (B232). The analogue in Rand’s philosophy would be that all change is under identity and is caused and determined by entities in their identity. Another structural constraint on objects in general held high by Kant is that “all substances, insofar as they can be perceived in space as simultaneous, are in thoroughgoing interaction” (B256). Rand’s analogue for all existents, not only for all entities or substances, would be that if anything did not affect anything else nor was affected by anything else, it would not exist (ITOE 39).

For Rand necessities, unities, and differences are fundamentally in the world, and the law of identity is not a principle first brought to the world from our minds in its encounters with the world. Kant had it the other way around. In his view, the existence and necessity of causal connections are from the understanding (together with productive imagination) in its making of experience from percepts by fixing in certain ways generic temporal objects in appearance for further, empirical discovery of their more specific properties and relations.

Within Kant’s larger framework with its primacy of object-seeking and form-conferring subject, application of his categories of the understanding, rendered temporal, schematic, and application of his synthetic principles of objects in general (such as the two principles stated in the paragraph before last) were supposed to yield judgments of experience from judgments of perception, objective validity from subjective validity. Because it is by the categories and principles of the understanding that objects are given, and in certain general ways, Kant calls those operations of the understanding constitutive. They have objective validity.                                                                                          

Reason directs understanding, and one of reason’s directives is to seek systematic unity among our various judgments of experience and among the laws and powers we find in nature. We should take this condition of the systematic unity of nature problematically. It cannot be proven that nature is entirely unified but we should investigate and systematize as if it were entirely unified with some strength or other.

"Now, every principle that lays down a priori for the understanding the thoroughgoing unity of the latter’s use holds also, although only indirectly, of the object of experience. Hence the principles of pure reason will have objective reality as regards this object also—not, however, so as to determine anything in this object, but only so as to indicate the procedure whereby the understanding’s empirical and determinate experiential use can become thoroughly accordant with itself. This use can become so by being as much as possible brought into coherence with, and derived from, the principle of thoroughgoing unity." (A665–66 B693–94)

There are principles of pure reason having indeterminative objective reality. Such is the principle of systematic unity throughout nature, coincident our economical understanding by organization into relations of species-genus, natural laws, and deeper natural laws unifying more restricted ones. In the preceding passage, Kant said the unity principle has objective reality regarding objects of experience. In the following passage, he argues the principle is an objectively valid one.

"Nor can we say that this unity according to principles of reason was gleaned by reason previously from the contingent character of nature. For reason’s law whereby we are to seek this unity is necessary, because without this law we would have no reason at all, but without reason would have no coherent use of the understanding, and in the absence of such use would have no sufficient mark of empirical truth. And hence, in view of this mark, we must throughout presuppose the systematic unity of nature as objectively valid and necessary." (A651 B179)

Objective validity is not all of the same shade in Kant’s use of the phrase (cf. also A125; B140; A131 B170; A156–57 B195–96; A160 B199; A289 B345; A788 B816). Kant resists characterizing the principle of systematic unity as necessary objectively. Rather, the principle of systematic unity is necessary “merely subjectively and logically, as a method” (A648 B676; also 1790, 184–86).

I should reply with Rand that existence is identity, that existence of any existent entails some relations to other existents and a relation of part to the whole that is existence, and that logic is part of the process of identifying existents, including their relationships. Rand adds that existence is identity entails that all concrete relationships in which existents stand to each other are magnitude relations. Kant would approve of such a necessary entailment as that last (A162–76 B202–18), though only as of the phenomenal realm, the only realm open to our understanding, a realm only part of the real. I dispute the necessary entailment of the magnitude principle from Rand’s metaphysics, contrary her own characterization of the principle (ITOE 39), though I take it for an objectively grounded hypothesis.

Objectivism can concur with Kant that systematic unity of all nature is not a precept for thought constitutive of nature. But Objectivism is metaphysically realist and denies that any of our precepts for investigating nature, such as the principle of identity, including causality, are constitutive of nature, its unities, or its necessities. Rather, those rules are right and profitable because true in the world and its possibilities, true in the only world, the world whose givenness is in no part from our minds.

Kant wrongly hangs his distinction between subjective validity and objective validity whenever he hangs the distinction on essential relativity to subjects as against concurrence among minds in their reason. Rather, we should keep the untoward sense of subjectivity to error-producing idiosyncratic association and to insensitivity to givenness and its determinacy; keep objectivity to object, its potentials, and its norm-setting for mind or to fidelity of mind to object and its potentials. The putative subjectivity of the subjective validity of “Sugar is sweet” then dissolves into an objectivity even though it entails response of a subject.

The variety of subjectivity I specified in the preceding paragraph is one variety within the general category of the subjective. The general sense is: to the side of the subject, distinguished from its object. Call this general sense of subjectivity elementary subjectivity. Call the variety of elementary subjectivity specified in the preceding paragraph bumbling subjectivity. Another variety of elementary subjectivity is that of conceptualization and mathematics. Set membership, including membership in the dimensioned sets that are concepts, is a relation in the mind concerning collections in the world and concerning other sets. The membership relation is radically to the side of the human subject. However, objects and relations accessed only through abstract, conceptual membership relations can be in the world and concretely so (contra Kant on the elements of matter; see A646 B674; Carrier 2001, 215–22; Friedman 1992, 264–66, 288–89). As Descartes and Newton declared, such is the case of geometry. Kant rightly took concepts to be elementary subjectivity. He took geometry to be elementary subjectivity, but erred by taking it to be not also concretely in thoroughly mind-independent physical world.

Let us call the elementary subjectivity of proper concepts, of mathematics, of logic, and of percepts and observations apposite subjectivity. When Kant or anyone says merely that something is subjective—that formality or reflectivity or sensation or taste or rational faith is subjective—elementary subjectivity is asserted, but whether the elementary subjectivity is bumbling or apposite is all the difference in the world and needs to be determined. Likewise for Kant’s uses of “subjective validity,” they must be disambiguated as between bumbling or apposite subjectivity.

Apposite subjectivity is objective. It is objectivity, that relation of consciousness to existence effective for grasp and act in the world.

Contrary to Kant, objectivity as conformance to object does not entail discursivity or the power of judgment. We make observations and take actions upon them when we are still crawling, long before language or even reference by pointing. We develop powers of observation, powers of integrating present percepts with some know-that concerning objects and their causal relations, particularly with respect to our possibilities for perception and action, all without language, and there is not conceptual and judgmental objectivity that does not continue to rely on those prelinguistic powers.

With my Randian corrections to Kant’s distinction of the subjective and the objective, there remains room for taking logic, mathematics, and either Kant’s categories and their principles or Rand’s metaphysical axioms and their corollaries to be rails of objectivity for knowledge beyond our prelinguistic observations, with their requisite percepts and schemata. Kant could rightly let logic, mathematics, and his fundamental categories and their principles tell of an objectivity, in suspension of their various employments in empirical judgments, provided he were to drop his occasional loose talk of concurrence, rather than shared constitution of rational, object-seeking mind, as the character of their objectivity, provided he were to drop discursivity as necessary to objectivity, and provided he were to drop his lapses of thinking that perception apart from its integration into empirical perceptual judgment is subjectivity idiosyncratic because individual, subjectivity radically indefinite, subjectivity bumbling.


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Over the last several years workers for the North American Kant Society “have managed to categorize ALL of the Kant items in the Philpapers.org database. The Kant section (https://philpapers.org/browse/immanuel-kant) now contains almost 30,000 entries. That’s far more than any other individual philosopher (Aristotle and Hume, for instance, are each languishing around the 11,000 mark). It’s more even than entire sub-categories of contemporary philosophy (Philosophy of Law, for instance, has around 20,000 entries). 

That was in a report in the latest issue of the NAKS newsletter. I wanted to share that link above to the papers, and I want to share here an excerpt from the Summary on Kant that heads that categorized index of Kant papers at PhilPapers.

“Kant’s massive influence is felt across the continental and analytic traditions. He is typically regarded as the forefather of German Idealism, and a key figure in the development of Existentialism, NeoKantianism (obviously), Phenomenology, Critical Theory, and even Post-Modernism. In the analytic tradition, Kant’s views were in the background of many of the debates in 20th-century epistemology and philosophy of mind. Kantian moral philosophy is one of the main positions in contemporary ethics, and Kantian political philosophy dominated most of the discussion in 20th and early 21st century political philosophy. Kant’s views about aesthetic judgment are central to many developments in the philosophy of art and art criticism. Kant is not a major figure in contemporary analytic metaphysics, however.”

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In the early 1970's, Leonard Peikoff gave elaborate tape lecture courses on the history of philosophy. These are representations of that history with which Rand entirely agreed. Peikoff was no doubt the one who ultimately informed Rand of most of the history of philosophy she would come to know after writing ATLAS SHRUGGED. The view of Kant's theoretical philosophy expressed in Peikoff's lectures, lately come to be online here, would be what had come to be Rand's view also of Kant's theoretical philosophy by the time of the lectures. The lectures on Kant are the fullest reservoir of what Rand thought to be his philosophy and the correct comparison of her own philosophy to his.

In those lectures, Leonard Peikoff remarks that Kant, Aristotle, and Plato are the philosophers most weighty and influential in the history of philosophy. Kant has an impact on all subsequent philosophy, he notes. That still goes, I should say. (In the broad arc, I note a polarity that goes Plato-Aristotle v. Descartes-Kant, notwithstanding all the criss-cross of affinities between these poles.) Concerning weight or stature of Kant, Peikoff says in his lectures: “Kant has one of the most ingenious, complex, integrated, comprehensive systems in the whole of philosophy.”

In answer to an audience question, Peikoff had some recommendations for further reading concerning Kant’s philosophy as a whole:


Gordon H. Clark – THALES TO DEWEY

Wilhelm Windleband – HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

Peikoff did not recommend jumping into THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON right off the bat. It is extremely hard to understand. In his own studies, he had been using the Kemp Smith translation into English. That is what I used also untill the 1990’s when two new translations appeared. Those are the translation by Werner S. Pluhar and the one by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood. These translations are such that one can begin study of KrV straightaway with full profit if one wanted to undertake such a task or have KrV available for one’s reference. That is because of the plethora of helpful footnotes these two translations provide and their Introductions for this central work of Kant’s that one is undertaking.

For a line-by-line English commentary on KrV, Peikoff recommended the 2-volume work by H. J. Paton – KANT’S METAPHYSICS OF EXPERIENCE. It covers roughly the first two-thirds of KrV, and Peikoff relied upon it. Today, I should recommend, for that sort of close commentary, Graham Bird – THE REVOLUTIONARY KANT (2006), which covers the entire text.

Edited by Boydstun
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