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Kant's theory of cognition: an interpretation of the argument of the transcendental deduction

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Title: Kant's theory of cognition: an interpretation of the argument of the transcendental deduction
Author(s): Kukla, Todd A.
Director of Research: Melnick, Arthur
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Melnick, Arthur
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Schacht, Richard; Schroeder, William; Weinberg, Shelley
Department / Program: Philosophy
Discipline: Philosophy
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Kant transcendental deduction intentionality categories proof for the necessary applicability of the categories skepticism cognition global representation
Abstract: The purpose of Kant’s transcendental deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason is to prove that certain concepts not derived from experience (called categories) apply to and govern the objects of our experience. Kant seeks to dispel Hume’s skeptical assertion that concepts such as cause and substance fail to identify features of reality. His proof appeals to our cognitive abilities, and he argues that, if the application of these concepts to experience makes cognition of objects possible, then these concepts must apply to any object that we can cognize. However, there is extensive disagreement in the secondary literature on the nature of the ability named by the term “cognition.” What is this capacity that the categories make possible? My dissertation provides an answer to this question. First, I argue that “cognition” refers to the phenomenon of intentionality. This means that the capacity for mental representations to refer to, or be about, objects is made possible by the application of the categories to experience. Second, I argue that cognition is the capacity to intend the full scope of objects in space and time – including the past, the future, and remote space. Many commentators focus only on Kant’s theory of perception, according to which rudimentary sensory information is synthesized into the perception of an object. Although the categories do play a role in synthesizing perceptions, I argue that more importantly they play a role in enabling the representation of objects that are not given in perception. On the reading I defend, the categories ground our ability to represent the wider spatio-temporal world. I term this ability “global intentionality.” In the first part of the dissertation, I argue against epistemological interpretations of the nature of cognition. According to this reading, the categories make empirical knowledge possible. This reading situates Kant within a philosophical tradition that is concerned with knowing whether our representations are accurate or correct portrayals of the world, and commentators have sought to find in Kant’s project a refutation of empirical knowledge and external world skepticism. I argue that instead of ensuring correctness of representation, the application of the categories to experience is necessary for the more basic capacity for representations to be about the world in the first place. The first part concludes by showing that the scope of intentionality is global. I appeal to the Postulates, Antinomies, and Analogies, as well as the Deduction, to support this claim. In the second part of the dissertation, I develop Kant’s theory of global intentionality. I argue that he offers a rule-based analysis, according to which intentional representations are simply rules for encountering objects. Since on Kant’s view objects are spatio-temporal in nature, rules for encountering them take the form of instructions for repositioning oneself in space and time, such that, if obeyed, would put one in their perceptual vicinity. I claim that this view is in many respects similar to William James’s understanding of cognition. Kant’s position, however, raises a special problem for representation of the past, because it is not possible to formulate rules that would put one in the vicinity of a past object. I argue that Kant’s proof of the category of substance is designed to solve this problem.
Issue Date: 2011-05-25
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/24150
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Todd A. Kukla
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-25
Date Deposited: 2011-05
 

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