(This will be my last question on this book, for those of you getting bored of my questions).

Very briefly I will describe the method of Transcendental Deduction (TD) in an over-simplistic manner, and I want to know how do the indeterminate thoughts of metaphysics (God, Soul etc) are formed given TD is correct.

So there's a transcendental unity of apperception which presupposes a synthetic unity of apperception ("I Think and all that given in para 16-17 in TD"). This synthetic unity requires intuition (understanding has to synthesize something - in this case a manifold of intuition), and since this unity is the condition for my self-identity, understanding should always accompany intuitions, otherwise they are empty and analytical. [Correct me if I am wrong here, this is an oversimplification of course].

Now, my question is, how are metaphysical statements even formed?

P1: Intuition is required for thinking (para 16-17 in TD as described above).
P2: We think metaphysical statements. 
C1: There must be intuition in these metaphysical statements.

But the whole reason why Transcendental Dialectics was written is because metaphysical statements do not have intuition.

What's the missing piece of the puzzle? For me, if you disagree with P1, there goes the tedious explanation of Deduction, because I attribute these metaphysical thoughts to myself, and therefore synthesis DOES occur. Can there be synthesis of something other than intuition too, perhaps what Kant calls 'psuedo-objects'? If that's true, are these 'psuedo-objects' not intuited?

  • 1
    This is explained in §24ff. There are two stages of synthesis, transcendental and figurative. Empty concepts only require the first to bring them into a single consciousness, a "merely intellectual combination" that "contains the mere form of intuition... no determinate intuition at all". As a result of the first stage only we get "concepts through which we cannot judge at all whether or not these objects are so much as possible... mere forms of thought, without objective reality". It is akin to shuffling around uninterpreted symbols, a purely formal side of "thinking".
    – Conifold
    Jun 21, 2020 at 22:21
  • So during the first stage, something is synthesized into a Unity and we can attribute it to ourselves right? If that's the case, why do we need intuition at all for the Unity? I thought that was the argument for the requirement for intuition - that without it nothing can be synthesized, and if nothing can be synthesized unity will not be available of our representations. Jun 22, 2020 at 10:04
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    This was an argument for requiring synthetic unity, not intuitions. The intuitions are thrown at us by the sensible manifold anyway, and they are the only external input. We do not need intuitions for the unity of apperception, i.e. formal combining and attributing the whole to ourselves. This is necessary, hence §16, but not sufficient. The initial task from §15 was more than that, it was to synthesize the manifold of sensibility, to convert it into experience, to connect our inner workings to reality, and that is what the figurative synthesis is for.
    – Conifold
    Jun 22, 2020 at 21:31
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    That's my understanding, but I wouldn't call it trivial. His rationalist predecessors missed the issue, inventing some fanciful ways of how conceptual knowledge of external world gets planted into our minds directly, if they bothered to address it at all. The result was metaphysics unwittingly built on two incredulous ideas: the world was supposed to fit into our concepts, and God was charged with bypassing the senses to do the fitting through innate ideas or something of the sort. Kant was the first to think through consequences of the fact that, fantasies aside, external inputs are sensory.
    – Conifold
    Jun 24, 2020 at 7:46
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    Hegel held a paradoxical position that we have no good reasons to posit noumena and that we can know them nonetheless. Perhaps you'll find Kreines's take on his criticism of Kant congenial.
    – Conifold
    Jun 25, 2020 at 9:03

2 Answers 2


and since this unity is the condition for my self-identity, understanding should always accompany intuitions, otherwise they are empty and analytical

This doesn't sound correct. Intuitions aren't ever analytic or synthetic. This division doesn't apply to them. Intuitions have their unity only as far as their content can be represented as a judgement. The general form of a judgement, a concept etc. (an act of understanding generally) is, taken analytically, the I think Kant talks about. This is Kant's point in the passage you speak about - intuitions can ever be only cognitively significant if they also implicitly have the form of a judgement (compare the section at B131), i.e. their object can be subsumed under a general concept. We perceive objects already in conceptual shape, in other words.

You're, however, correct that seems to pose a challenge for Kant. He will insist that categories have no content of their own, although he insists they're distinguishable, even in the context of Transcendental Dialectic where they're applied independently of all experience (Hegel is very happy to point this out in the Encyclopaedia). It seems that Kant thinks that we can only despair over that, just like he says we cannot ever definitely get rid of the transcendental illusion of the Dialectic, though we're aware that it constitutes a mere guise of knowledge. Or that we cannot know where our seemingly supernatural knowledge of the moral law (i.e. practical reason) comes from. Or that we have no idea how the imagination works. In many places Kant just seems to posit our eternal ignorance - interestingly enough, the German Idealists often found it necessary to investigate just these problems.


You've pinpointed a very important but little understood aspect of the operation of the mind, not brain, (which serves as the data collection and storage mechanism and bodily functions management systems.) One thing, perhaps the only one which Spinoza and Berkeley agreed on is that all of our ideas have as their origin, either objects or events from the sensible world. This means that your observation that metaphysical ideas might have their origin in experience. Here by metaphysical is meant 'real'. No amount of space here would be enough to detail the entire process but either Berkeley's 'Metaphysics' or better yet, Spinoza's 'On the Improvement of the Underatanding' (43 pages), Will help. Most successful Spinozists agree that understanding his 'treatise' requires coming to it as a 'tabula rasa' Please do not impose today's definitions or logical prescriptions on Spinoza's writing. His logic does not involve the relations among hypotheses but rather the relationships among causes. He posited that our ideas are, when adequate, metaphysically 'real'. This would account for your important query about metaphysical ideas. Berkeley and Spinoza came to dialectically opposing conclusions about ideas. In fact Spinoza is the only philosopher in history to posit human's experience as real and not some form of contrivance manufactured by the mind's activity.

  • Thanks for the answer. I only have secondary reading of both philosophers. Sorry for not being very clear (I have edited the question now), my question was in reference to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason where he denies that any legitimate metaphysical inquiry can be made without intuitions, thus Soul and God are empty concepts, and unless we experience them in space and time, we cannot establish their existence. However his reasoning is that it is so because we need to synthesise intuition for apperception (to attribute experience to ourselves), but then what do we synthesise in metaphysics? Jun 21, 2020 at 19:43
  • @Rajan Aggarwal- My problem with Kant, who I admire fully, is that if you trace his entire sets of and interconnection among his arguments there does not appear to be any justification for all of the finely grained distinctions he drew within the process of human understanding. And the question becomes, if this line of argumentation is to be considered scientific in some measure, where is the empirical proof that he has delineated the understanding accurately. For example , he terms certain affiliations, 'happy circumstance' What can that mean empirically? All in, his argument is circular.
    – user37981
    Jun 22, 2020 at 12:46
  • After reading the CPR I fully agree with you. Kant seems desperate to prove math and science right and Hume wrong. He is definitely biased and he creates concepts - like distinction of intuition and concepts - not because of his investigative methods but because he wants to prove what he wants to prove. Nevertheless, I admire him because once you eliminate this bias, you get a constructivist philosophy, where everything is contingent, and this is what fascinates me. Basically, what I like about Kant is how his philosophy gave birth to a better form of what he wanted to destroy. Jun 22, 2020 at 15:06

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