Kant's Theory of Imagination: Bridging Gaps in Judgement and Experience

Philosophical Review 106 (3):485 (1997)
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Abstract

The study is carried out in five chapters, with the first two offering a reconsideration of the function of the imagination in the Transcendental Deduction and Schematism of the first Critique. The last three follow the order of topics discussed by Kant in the third Critique in regard to judgments of taste, the sublime, and teleology; they conclude with an interpretation of "productive imagination" as a "model for the ideal of intellectual intuition". The comparison between "human and divine spontaneity" is introduced in the first chapter, where Gibbons notes that while we have "Kant's explicit and repeated emphasis on the difference" between these, "in considering the similarity of these types of spontaneity," she wishes "to correct a possible imbalance in Kant's exposition": there are, she suggests, "formal similarities between these types of spontaneity". The main thrust of the first chapter is to respond to a particular reading of Kant—namely, to those unsympathetic interpreters who see in the Deductions an "imaginary subject of transcendental psychology" and also to those who give a "sympathetic reading" but do so in terms of an identification of "all aspects of synthesis with concept application," thereby reducing the "role of the transcendental synthesis of the imagination to that of unifying a manifold of intuition under a concept". Gibbons holds instead that the "theory of synthesis... focuses on the nature of human cognition and what is required for us to know anything about objects" and, further, that it presupposes "the broader function of the imagination as grounding the possibility of concept-application in the first place".

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