I Kant Understand This

Immanuel Kant’s writing is very difficult to understand, as many unfamiliar terms and stipulative definitions are made within the passage which is used throughout the piece. In “On The Original Synthetic Unity of Apperception”, new concepts or stipulative definitions are given in italics. From what I read, these seem to be the key concepts:

  • Intuition: Presentation that can be given prior to all thought(B132)
  • Pure Apperception: A spontaneous act of presentation  not belonging to sensibility(B132)
  • a priori: knowledge obtained without experience(introduction)


The passage itself is a foundational piece in which terms are defined and used in order to argue a higher claim.

This was a very hard read, although the introduction to the “Critique of Pure Reason” helped.

From what I read, Kant is influenced by the philosopher Hume(Introduction XIV), where Hume denies any sort of unity between the senses in the human mind, Kant disagrees, saying that, “…the unity of the mind is necessary, because without such unity there would be no cognition at all”(Introduction XIV). By knowing this, it could follow that he writes in support of the unity if senses, as he says that “All presentations given to me are subject to this unity, but they must also be brought under it through a synthesis” (B136). In this, Kant argues about the unity of senses, that they come together to synthesize, or create the things we know around us.

3 responses to “I Kant Understand This

  1. Kant is indeed a hard philosopher to comprehend. His use of philosophical jargon makes it hard to jump into his texts but they provide strong arguments for his beliefs. I also agree with Kant’s disagreement with Hume about the unity of the mind. It is impossible to analyze something using only one of the senses. When we see a flower, we use our sight to analyze its colors and our sense of smell to analyze its fragrance. At the center of this process, the mind connects these senses together so that the body can form a more complete analysis of the objects it encounters.

  2. I think that it is great that you found the stipulative definitions used in Hegel’s writings. As the introduction stated, Hegel uses extremely precise definitions of words that, if you don’t know the intended use of the word, then it would be very difficult to decipher the meaning. A useful trick that I might implement is keeping a word bank that includes the definitions of the words next to me when I am reading, so, if a word that I am not 100% sure on it’s definition, I can simply just check it.
    In regard to Kants comments on the unity of the senses, an object can be characterized in ways other than just its taste, or smell. As a result, a complete concept of an object is the combination of how someone may sense it. Ad, as Hegel says, sense knowledge is the purest form of knowledge and truth.

  3. Allen, that is such a great idea! I love the idea of a “word bank” that you can easily reference on a page next to you, rather than just having the definitions embedded in the text in your marginal notes as I was suggesting, which makes it difficult to read if you are constantly flipping back and forth in the pages. (Of course, I would do both — keep writing or highlighting definitions in the text when they appear in case you lose your “word bank” sheet!)

    Also, Luke, good job on these concrete definitions (with citations! yay!).

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