Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hamawaki, Arata. Review of Fiona Hughes' KANT'S AESTHETIC EPISTEMOLOGY. NDPR (August 2009).

Hughes, Fiona. Kant's Aesthetic Epistemology: Form and World. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007. Kant, as is well-known, held that the pure concepts of the understanding, or the categories, are conditions of the possibility of the "experience" of objects. By this, he appears to have meant not just that the categories are conditions of the possibility of thought, or judgment, regarding objects, but also of the possibility of the sensory experience, or perception, of objects. This impression is, perhaps, strongest in the climactic section 26 of the second-edition Transcendental Deduction, in which Kant seems intent to close off the possibility that, despite the fact that all thought must conform to the categories, there may nonetheless be "rogue" intuitions or appearances that fail to so conform. So he seems to argue that the categories are conditions even of the sensory apprehension of objects. However, success in closing such a potential gap between mind and world can strike one as a pyrrhic victory. This is how I think Fiona Hughes, in her book Kant's Aesthetic Epistemology, sees it. She does so because it promotes a picture of the mind's relation to the world she calls "impositionalist": the view that anything that can come to us through our sensibility is necessarily stamped from the outset with the "imprint" of the forms of the understanding. As Hughes argues, if it is guaranteed in advance of any actual experience that anything that we experience must conform to the categories, then it is hard to credit what we receive from experience as knowledge of an "extra-mental world". Even if the objects of our knowledge have an existence that is independent of us, it will seem, she thinks, that what we know of the object would be nothing more than the "imposition" of our own forms of thought. Ultimately, the dualism between sensibility and thought with which Kant started would seem to be abolished in favor of a view on which sensibility has been co-opted by the understanding. Hughes's aim in her book is to show that while there are isolated passages in Kant that invite an "impositionalist" reading, careful consideration of the entirety of his corpus, particularly in light of the third Critique, reveals a more complex account of the relation between mind and world, one that she describes alternately as "pluralist" or "dynamic". On a "dynamic" reading the categories can have application to objects only through a cooperative engagement between the separate faculties of sensibility and understanding, an engagement that requires the mediation of the imagination. On an "impositionalist" reading, since it is a "fait accompli", as Hughes puts it, that the categories are involved even in the reception of an object through sensibility, there is no mediating work for the imagination to perform. Thus, for Hughes the difference between the two readings hinges on the different roles that each reading envisions for the imagination. For the impositionalist, the imagination is nothing more than the faculty of the understanding itself, considered under one of its aspects, namely, under the aspect of its application to intuition, as opposed to its employment in mere thought as such. For Hughes, however, the imagination must be accorded some independence from the understanding, and so must possess an independent standing as a genuine third faculty, one that serves to mediate the relation between the world, as it is received by us through our sensibility, and the faculty of understanding. . . . Read the whole review here:

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