Taking our experience of time... this is how I understand what Kant is saying.

There's this non-temporal manifold of sensation. I am picturing it like the pages of a flipbook. Images in succession which have yet to be tied together or animated. The form of sensibility, time, then organizes this flipbook into a temporal flow of events.

Now I am never conscious of this non-temporal manifold. Why does Kant think there is ever such a thing?

  1. All I really know about is the temporal manifold (events ordered in time). What are Kant's justifications for how there's a non-temporal manifold that gets synthesized by the mind etc.

  2. If time is just an inner-sense, then according to Kant is my mind presented the entire "content" of my life at once... and then my mind organizes it into the time-ordered events?

Here's a link to the Critique of Pure Reason: https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/4280/pg4280-images.html#chap18

Relevant section is: "SECTION II. Of Time.§ 5. Metaphysical Exposition of this Conception."

  • 1
    SEP does a good job of describing the context of 18th century, where available options for the nature of space and time (substances, substance properties) could not satisfactorily explain neither their immutability nor our ability to perceive them. Kant's solution is a clever bold abduction that resolves those issues. An added benefit was that atemporality reconciled free will with empirical determinism. There is no flipbook, even the order of events comes from synthesis, the noumenal source is wholly inexplicable
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 3:53
  • There's a question 1 level up that begs an answer.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 11:02

2 Answers 2


Re. 2 : the non-temporal manifold is ‘intuition without thought [gedankenlose Anschauung]’ not the entire content of one's life at once. As per Kant, Non-Conceptual Content (Dennis Schulting), p.85:

‘intuition without thought [gedankenlose Anschauung]’ would be possible, but it would ‘never [be] cognition, ’ ... ‘One can intuit something without thinking something thereby or thereunder. / All cognitions come to us through thinking, i.e., through concepts; they are not intuitions.’

Kant is concerned with what we can determine by pure reason, so this intuition is his starting point. Then time comes and facilitates thought by allowing a sequence of reflections. Without time there is no thought; only thought-less intuition of the field of sensation, if that's possible to feel without thinking.

This quote from A111 does not appear to be in the Project Gutenberg eBook, which is presumably the Second Edition only. It should appear in Chapter II. Of the Deduction of the Pure Conception of the Understanding e.g. in context.

(PS I'm not an expert on this subject; this is just my understanding so far. Hope it helps.)


Kant is perpetually concerned with the problem of how to get a non-contingent whole out of the interaction of parts. In the first Critique (B-edition), the name that Kant gives to this self-organizing process is synthesis. Some philosophers seem to hate this notion.

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