Engstrom, Lecture 13

Judgment and thinking are kissing cousins.

-Professor Engstrom


Transcendental Deduction, Section 16-18 [Note: We only got through section 16]

Before getting into the heart of the topic, Professor Engstrom made a few general comments, most of which were administrative in nature. One thing of importance that he noted is that Sections 18-22 of the Prolegomena are very good for pairing with Sections 19 and 20 of the Transcendental Deduction of the CPR. In addition – and this is kind of cool for us personally – he made it a point to note that the preface and preamble of the Prolegomena are concerned with Hume and worth digging into if so inclined.

Like section 15, section 16 can be divided into two argumentative steps:

(a) The Analytic Unity of Self-Consciousness, which is expressed in the 1st paragraph [Part I, below]
(b) The Synthetic Unity of Self-Consciousness, which is expressed in the 2nd and 3rd paragraph [Part II, below]

Key: The thread of the entire argument found in 16 is that (a) presupposes (b), and the lecture unpacks this central point.

The full scope of the lecture centers around a single written statement on the black board which I’ll reproduce in full. (Note: The text is either what Kant is literally saying, or very close to his words; the parenthesis are Engstrom’s ‘gloss’ on what is being said.)

PART I: The ‘I think’ must be able to occupy all my representations (This identity of the ‘I think’ in relation to my representation is the analytic unity of apperception*)

PART II: This analytic unity presupposes that all of my representations are subject to the conditions under which it is possible for them to be united in one consciousness. (This unity in one consciousness is the synthetic unity of apperception)

There were four main points made about Part I, zeroing in on specific words or phrases as he spoke. I’ll try to make them systematic for notes.

(1) ‘I think’; (2) ‘apperception’; (3) ‘think’ (in ‘I think’) (4) ‘I’ (in ‘I think’)

(1′) The expression of ‘I think’ is a nod to Descartes, and Kant presupposes a familiarity with the Cogito and its central aim to give the thinking being a special sort of ontological status.
(2′) Apperception, while originating in Descartes, is a Leibnizian preoccupation.
(3′) ‘Think’ is a capacity of the understanding, but there is a more nuanced concern that we must keep in mind: for Kant, thinking often by default is meant to suggest knowledge and he often casually uses the term as such, but it can also be a function of ‘imagining'(e.g. make-believe). It is in this broader scope of ‘think’ that both ‘knowledge’ and ‘the imagined’ are situated, and it’s crucial to keep this in mind. [Engstrom quotes Kant’s BXXVII ‘…I can think whatever I want’]**
(4′) Engstrom made the perplexing observation that, in Kant, ‘self-consciousness is necessarily possible’. Roughly, the ‘I’ is a mark of apperception. So… ‘The moon has craters’ [S is P] can (must always potentially!) be expressed as ‘I think the moon has craters.’ [I think S is P]. Engstrom: ‘If I am aware of myself thinking then I am aware of myself.’ Predication without the ‘I’ is incoherent.

Engstrom directed our attention to B376 where Kant offers a taxonomy of mind, noting that Representation has a higher priority relationship than Representation with Consciousness, which in turn has a higher priority relationship than the components.  We as human thinking agents ‘cannot go any higher than Representation-with-Consciousness [level], and Kant doesn’t really care.’


Engstrom said that, as analytic, Part I is actually quite trivial. By why would Kant want to start with a trivial statement? To direct our attention to the ‘identity’ (in Engstrom’s ‘gloss’) in progress to the second part.

In turning to part II, Engstrom notes that Kant is referencing two types of ‘unity’. Engstrom addressed Part II by quoting from Hume***. Kant agrees with Hume: if you just look to impressions, you will never find the ‘I/self’. There is, thus, a synthetically unified ‘I’ which grounds the analytic ‘I’.

Engstrom ends by quoting a passage in A108.

‘This transcendental unity of apperception forms out of all possible appearances, which can stand alongside one another in one experience, a connection of all these representations according to laws. For this unity of consciousness would be impossible if the mind in knowledge of the manifold could not become conscious of the identity of function whereby it synthetically combines it in one knowledge. The original and necessary consciousness of the identity of the self is thus at the same time a consciousness of an equally necessary unity of the synthesis of all appearances according to concepts, that is, according to rules, which not only make them necessarily reproducible but also in so doing determine an object for their intuition, that is, the concept of something wherein they are necessarily interconnected. For the mind could never think its identity in the manifoldness of its representations, and indeed think this identity a priori, if it did not have before its eyes the identity of its act, whereby it subordinates all synthesis of apprehension (which is empirical) to a transcendental unity, thereby rendering possible their interconnection according to a priori rules.’

* Throughout the lecture Engstrom several times used the words ‘apperception’ and ‘self-consciousness’ interchangeably.
** this is my (Brandon) observation, but it’s interesting in the light of this to note how Kemp-Smith translates ‘thinking’ where Guyer/Wood will use ‘cognition’. Obviously there might be more nuanced linguistic complexity with the original German, but I’ve noticed in several places the translations will use the different word for the same translated statement.
*** I got the source after lecture: A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part III, Section V: On the impressions of the senses and memory.

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