In the introduction to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason by Marcus Weigelt, Weigelt writes, "Reason, although sometimes understood as the faculty that encompasses all thought (for instance when we talk about human beings as rational animals, whereby we characterize, as Kant says, our whole higher, that is non-empirical, faculty of knowledge), is, in Kant's technical sense, a more restricted faculty and indeed the highest of three stems of knowledge that he distinguishes. Its task, rather than to generate knowledge of objects, is to reflect, order and unify (in short, to systematise) the knowledge gained through our understanding."

I wonder if conscious experience both of an external object and our inner experience of the object is a correlate of such systematising, or, in Husserlian phenomenological terms, constitutive, activity.

How should I approach this problem?

Thanks for your time.

  • I don't know what "a correlate of such systematising" is. Conscious experience is a subject of reasoning, but what's a correlate? Commented Jan 20 at 7:31
  • I doubt it, much of phenomenal experience has nothing to do with reason, and the phenomenal aspect of it especially, even when reason is otherwise involved. The correlate of systematising is more in line with the non-phenomenal consciousness, what they call access consciousness in philosophy of mind:"access-conscious states are those that are available to interact with some specified cognitive processes (for example, they might be those that are reportable in speech)."
    – Conifold
    Commented Jan 20 at 7:47
  • Seems more likely that what Kant calls the interplay of imagination and understanding which fits with constitutive activity in the Husserlian sense I guess.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jan 20 at 10:07
  • It could be said so via his transcendental schemata of judgement for the conscious awareness of phenomenal experiences, not conceptualization thereof though... Commented Jan 21 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


Reason in the technical sense of Kant’s use in his “Critique of pure Reason” (CpR) is exactly what Weigelt describes, notably in the last sentence of your quote: Unifying under regulative ideas the knowledge gained through our understanding. See SEP Kant's account of reason, section 1.2, dealing with reason as a “faculty of principles”.

I do not see a direct relation between reason in the above sense and the capability of phenomenological experience. Kant deals with the latter in the beginning of CpR under the title “Transcendental Aesthetic”. Phenomenological experience builds on the human forms of intuition, space and time. By processing the input from this kind of intuition the mind then constructs experience.

You ask: How should I approach this problem? The only way is to read CpR with the help of a comment – that’s a challenging, but rewarding task in philosophy. A good guide through the work is to find out Kant's meaning of his key concepts intuition (German: Anschauung), mind (Verstand), experience (Erfahrung), reason (Vernunft).

I would not read Kant through the lenses of Husserl’s phenomenology and his terms.

  • 2
    Kant doesn't deal with possibility of 'phenomenological experience' in the Aesthetic. This is a common misreading. Kant does not have a layer-cake model of human faculties. I reccommend James F. Conant's great "Why Kant was not a Kantian".
    – user71009
    Commented Jan 20 at 14:13
  • I agree with that comment in some sense. On the other hand, most Kantians built their works and ideas primarily with the third Critique (of the Power of Judgement) in mind, which shifts and specifies many meanings and the abilities and tasks of faculties which remain quite fuzzy in the first critique. It is hard to think the becoming of phenomenology without Kant's remarks on reflective judgement, productive imagination, and other key concepts of that later book.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jan 20 at 18:56
  • @PhilipKlöcking Could you please expand why the result of intuition in the sense of CpR, Transcendental Aesthetic, is different from phenomenological experience; thanks.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Jan 20 at 19:27
  • Intuition in the Transcendental Aesthetics, which only later in the book becomes clear, is either its form or the manifold, and maybe other fuzzy things, but certainly not the determinate intuition of a particular object since that requires mind and categories. Phenomenological inquiry starts at the very end of the epistemological process, with an intuition of a particular object (shaped by many more influences than sensuality) and runs backwards from there, if you like. Thus, what is described in the Aesthetics is not sufficient for phenomenological experience.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jan 21 at 18:58

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