The Manifold of Intuition and the Form-Matter Distinction in Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason"

Dissertation, Emory University (1988)

Charles O. Nussbaum
University of Texas at Arlington
Kant is the last classical practitioner of foundationalist epistemology in the Cartesian tradition, a tradition which saw the major problem of the theory of knowledge as one of providing a metaphysical account of the way in which the subjective contents of the individual mind come to have indubitable objective reference. But he is also the inaugurator of a very different approach to epistemology, one that sees methodology or rules of cognitive procedure as fundamental in determining the objectivity of knowledge. An examination of Kant's reconstruction of the traditional form-matter distinction and his application of it to the manifold of intuition in the Critique of Pure Reason brings out the transitional character of his philosophy with particular force, and shows the immense impact of his work on the central epistemological issues of representation, explanation, and justification. While Kant continues to employ the traditional term Vorstellung , he extends its signification beyond that of a subjective mental content to an intersubjectively shared scheme of description. Where he adopts scholastic usage in referring to categories as concepts, he does not regard them as highest genera, but interprets them as rules of connection, thereby providing a logical framework suitable for functional, rather than essentialist explanation. Finally, while retaining in his transcendental psychology the conception of mental activity derivative of the older empirical psychology, Kant still manages to distinguish successfully the previously conflated questions of the causal origins vs. the grounds of justification of knowledge. Consideration of subsequent developments in regard to these issues in the light of Kant's work not only lends a certain amount of support to pragmatic conceptions of the nature of knowledge and its justification, but also suggests some promising directions for future epistemological investigation along evolutionary lines
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