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What inspired this question is Prolegomena §18, particularly this passage:

All of our judgments are at first mere judgments of perception; they hold only for us, i.e., for our subject, and only afterwards do we give them a new relation, namely to an object, and intend that the judgment should also be valid at all times for us and for everyone else;

So for Kant all it takes for a judgment to be objectively or universally valid is my intention?

I'm also confused with "we" in the text - does that mean we, in the sense of each one of us gives a new relation to the judgment, or we as a collective of humans reaching an agreement?

To name a few examples to make the question more concrete, under this definition of objectivity/universality,

  • would "the earth is flat" be objectively and universally valid for a sincere flat-earther?

  • would "I won the lottery today" be objectively and universally valid for someone who intends to win the lottery?


To support the ordinary sense of "subjective" here is the Oxford/Google definition:

based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

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  • No, should does not imply is. Our our intending only prequalifies judgements for being universally valid, it does not make them so, we are perfectly capable of mistakes. However, until they are at least intended as objective there is no point asking if they hold for others. As for "we", he just means that all of us typically proceed in this way. Kant's epistemology is not social, he assumes that all humans have essentially identical cognitive faculties, and agreement results automatically when they are properly applied, without any collective action.
    – Conifold
    Aug 21, 2022 at 8:28

2 Answers 2

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There are some things in the mix here.

"We" in this context means "finite rational beings like us" just like the "everyone else", ie. all beings that perceive the world through the same senses and are thereby limited in their ability to gain empirical insight into the world in the same way.

The reason that judgements based on empirical input about perception are subjective is that the judgement is purely about the information that reached us and what we made of that information, ie. it is a judgement about our representation [Vorstellung] of the world.

What he then says is that in a second step we (usually) think of these representations as standing in a certain relation to the object, mainly that of correspondence, ie. that the representation mirrors, in some specific ways, how the object will always be represented both by me and others that work the same way, how it should be represented by beings like me.

Mind, this has nothing to do with objective judgements in the ordinary sense, these are judgements that are about generality [Allgemeinheit] if at all, which simply means 'true without exceptions'.

The intention comes into the picture because both kinds of judgements works somewhat differently: While the first is entirely about our own stream of consciousness and inner life, the second kind of judgement reaches out into the world in direction to the object of perception and thus the mind goes beyond the bounds of itself. This is what we usually mean when we talk about intention: an act of mind that is about a certain state of affairs in the world.

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No. Kant says:

We give them a new relation to an object.

This is how he says judgements become objective. A simple example is a judgement that refers to a body of law. The "body of law" here is the object. The "reference" to it is the relation.

Since people are not stones but intentional beings, that he mentions intention is just tautological. It's a red herring to focus on that.

The term "we" is simply Kant's evocation of men and women not acting alone but in concert and in society. Nor by this is he saying that he is referencing a specific historical event of such a group of said men and women. It's not as though some contract was drawn up and signed. It's a particular historical process that he's naming by this.

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