I am fairly familiar with the general scheme of Kant's philosophy. I started reading Critique of Pure Reason since a few weeks ago. I think I understood nearly all parts (but I maybe mistaken) but now I have some difficulty with a passage from his chapter on time from the Transcendental Aesthetics, version B. I have produced the passage below and the difficulty pertains to the second half of the passage.

I wonder what is meant by "the manifold given in the subject". I thought manifolds refer only to outer appearances such as color, shape, etc. I can't recall whether Kant explicitly defined the concept earlier in the book. Would that in the subject refer to various self-intuitions or is Kant referring to the self as an object?

The second question regards the reference to "a self-actively given intuition of the self" and "intellectual" character of such a cognition. It is not clear which qualification exactly makes the said cognition intellectual: that all of the manifold is given at once, or that it is given "self-actively" or because it is given "alone"?

I tend to think that Kant here is suggesting that the self is not active in its self-consciousness (which would otherwise make the concept of the self intellectual) but passive/receptive due to a priori form of time. Am I correct? If so, then was time what he already meant by the manifold mentioned earlier?

And finally I can't see what he means by "this difference" in the end of the passage. Is it sensibility that makes the difference in humans? How? Do animals not have sensibility?

Many ambiguities that obscure his point to me here. I highly appreciate your insights.

CPR, as edited by Guyer/Wood, Cambridge version, p. B68/189.

CPR, as edited/translated by Guyer/Wood, Cambridge version, p. B68/189.

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    The manifold (of sensation) is not confined to outer sense only, he explicitly says "it is exactly the same in the case of inner sense" shortly before this passage. "Intellectual intuition" is just a term for intuiting something "as it is in itself", a faculty Kant denies we have even for ourselves, which would have to be by "mere self-activity". Instead, he says, we get only "inner perception of the manifold", same as in outer sense. On account of "this difference", he classifies it as (inner) sensibility. As a result, self-consciousness intuits only "as it appears to itself, not as it is."
    – Conifold
    Oct 7, 2023 at 9:35
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    Also note the distinction between an intuition of ourselves and a concept of ourselves. Since all of our intuitions are sensible (of appearances), the only proper use of the concept of the self (the "I think") for the purposes of knowledge is in application to phenomena. Apart from application to appearances, the bare "I think" is an empty cognition (devoid of content). Thus, we cannot argue from the bare "I think" that the self is simple, immortal, etc. (you'll see that in the Transcendental Dialectic later).
    – Hokon
    Oct 7, 2023 at 10:27
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    Self-activity aka intellectual was a popular definition of soul's true intuition stipulated in pre-Kant western philosophy. Once you know this, intuitively, the manifold of inner senses if they really exist must be mere a posteriori phenomenal appearances since soul is almost always assumed to be a priori since Plato's world soul and its remembrance mechanism instantiated upon individual souls. In other words all the manifold of inner senses have nothing to do with their soul and they're all sourced from their material sense organs, most likely the brain with neural nets... Oct 8, 2023 at 6:37

1 Answer 1


The "objects" of the inner sense include things like feelings, emotions, and desires (when desire is not always something felt). We are conscious of their manifold in time (we are sad at one time and happy at another, for example), though not as extended throughout space (I think this might be a somewhat parochial claim of Kant's, as some people, including myself, seem to spatially localize many/most/all of our feelings/desires).

Generally, he says at one point, "A perception which relates solely to the subject as a modification of its state, is a sensation (sensatio)," and this pertains to the anticipations of perception:

Apprehension, by means of sensation alone, fills only one moment, that is, if I do not take into consideration a succession of many sensations. As that in the phenomenon, the apprehension of which is not a successive synthesis advancing from parts to an entire representation, sensation has therefore no extensive quantity; the want of sensation in a moment of time would represent it as empty, consequently = 0. That which in the empirical intuition corresponds to sensation is reality (realitas phaenomenon); that which corresponds to the absence of it, negation = 0. Now every sensation is capable of a diminution, so that it can decrease, and thus gradually disappear. Therefore, between reality in a phenomenon and negation, there exists a continuous concatenation of many possible intermediate sensations, the difference of which from each other is always smaller than that between the given sensation and zero, or complete negation. That is to say, the real in a phenomenon has always a quantity, which however is not discoverable in apprehension, inasmuch as apprehension take place by means of mere sensation in one instant, and not by the successive synthesis of many sensations, and therefore does not progress from parts to the whole. Consequently, it has a quantity, but not an extensive quantity.

So later (in the Transcendental Dialectic), Kant will controvert Moses Mendelssohn by saying that:

But this philosopher did not consider that, granting the soul to possess this simple nature, which contains no parts external to each other and consequently no extensive quantity, we cannot refuse to it any less than to any other being, intensive quantity, that is, a degree of reality in regard to all its faculties, nay, to all that constitutes its existence. But this degree of reality can become less and less through an infinite series of smaller degrees. It follows, therefore, that this supposed substance—this thing, the permanence of which is not assured in any other way, may, if not by decomposition, by gradual loss (remissio) of its powers (consequently by elanguescence, if I may employ this expression), be changed into nothing.

If apperception were intellectual, then, all of the above would have to be drastically reconsidered; but, assuming that there is an element of passivity or receptiveness in much of our apperception, including via the inner temporal sense (the sense of the inner identity of objects, including ourselves as objects, over time), allows us to conclude with Kant's so-called "refutation of idealism":

I am conscious of my own existence as determined in time. All determination in regard to time presupposes the existence of something permanent in perception. But this permanent something cannot be something in me, for the very reason that my existence in time is itself determined by this permanent something.

Again, consciousness in its intensive quantity is not permanent enough to do the job of refuting skepticism about the external world; so there is a permanent quantity that is not our mere consciousness, by which the proof is accomplished, and this on account, in part, of the passivity of our inner apprehension. By contrast, if all our representations, internal and external, were dependent on our spontaneous will, it would seem to follow that our inner sense would be replaced by a sense of our will; but Kant will starkly claim, again and again, that we do not have (much of) an intuition of our inner free will.

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