First, to cite the (Meiklejohn) version of the argument:

If understanding in general be defined as the faculty of laws or rules, the faculty of judgement may be termed the faculty of subsumption under these rules; that is, of distinguishing whether this or that does or does not stand under a given rule (casus datae legis). General logic contains no directions or precepts for the faculty of judgement, nor can it contain any such. For as it makes abstraction of all content of cognition, no duty is left for it, except that of exposing analytically the mere form of cognition in conceptions, judgements, and conclusions, and of thereby establishing formal rules for all exercise of the understanding. Now if this logic wished to give some general direction how we should subsume under these rules, that is, how we should distinguish whether this or that did or did not stand under them, this again could not be done otherwise than by means of a rule. But this rule, precisely because it is a rule, requires for itself direction from the faculty of judgement. Thus, it is evident that the understanding is capable of being instructed by rules, but that the judgement is a peculiar talent, which does not, and cannot require tuition, but only exercise. This faculty is therefore the specific quality of the so-called mother wit, the want of which no scholastic discipline can compensate. [emphasis added]

It seems that if one formalized the emphasized passage in modern logical parlance, one might end up with something very much like a "diagonal argument" regarding the "faculty" of judgment, or then (in modern terms) we would be "diagonalizing" over some relevant propositional function (c.f. Kant's own functionalism about logic in general, then). Is Kant anticipating our recognition of the difference between lower- and higher-order logic, or perhaps the object-/meta-language distinction, or any of these sorts of things? Even if he is, was he himself anticipated somewhere in scholasticism or antiquity, i.e. is he citing an argument he read about somewhere else, or at least might he be citing something else prior to his own analysis?

  • Can't speak too specifically but according to Maudlin we shouldn't be at all surprised at these kinds of arguments (e.g. diagonal). The impressive bit is the actual instantiation of them, not the general idea. youtu.be/80R3goexOew?t=2210. So I would agree that Kant is anticipating what you say.
    – J Kusin
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 0:31
  • This section doesn't fit diagonal which can be really proved/computed in tuition like after paying your tuition you'll get all subsequent necessary things setup to grow. Here he's talking about his famous transcendental judgment. His comment about using rationality to arrive at the critique of rationality somewhere else could be said to foretaste the core of your said thesis here while not foreseeing the technical details though, perhaps due to a divine revelation... Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 6:48

1 Answer 1


This passage needs to be understood within the context of Kant’s larger project. He is recognizing a problem that his general approach creates, particularly when it comes to the spontaneous formation/application of empirical concepts. I doubt anything more abstract is on his mind.

  • I have a long-standing depth of appreciation for Kant's overall set of theses throughout his various critiques and other works. So as it stands, your answer needs more refinement before it can count as useful, e.g. you would need to situate your use of the word "abstract" in this context. Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 2:21
  • 1
    I am not a fan of the dominant approach to Kant which attempts to view him as some sort of logician. philarchive.org/archive/KURCIR Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 11:20
  • 1
    Things like incompleteness and truth-undefinability are usually counted as metalogical, and Kant certainly tackles issues that we would call by that name, and much more besides. At any rate, Kant took the quoted passage from the first critique and made his whole third critique, of the power of judgment, around the rule-following puzzle, since he says that aesthetic thought reaches for universality without there being rules of descriptive understanding to apply. Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 12:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .