In Kant argues that space is an
In thisessay I will attempt to explain what Kant means when he calls space a form ofintuition.
I will present parts of his account of space as he expresses it inthe Critique of Pure Reason. While hein many instances discusses both time andspace together, I will primarily focus on space and disregard time to acertain extent. I will then briefly look at Bernard Bolzano’s criticism towardsKant and his counter-argument where he rejects pure intuition. Lastly, I willconsider whether Kant’s doctrine on space is convincing or not in light ofBolzano’s argument.In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant states thatin order to arrive at knowledge claims we need two cognitions; concepts and intuitions. We cannot obtain knowledgepurely through concepts or the other way around; “Thoughts without content areempty, intuitions without concepts are blind” (A51/B75). We need both to makeknowledge claims. Before Kant came with his theories, both Leibniz and Locke hadtaken part in the debate of whether of not a priori knowledge existed.
While theirviews differed greatly, neither of them recognized sensibility, from which intuitionsderive, as a cognitive faculty that is distinct from understanding and reason. Theysaw it as serving the other faculties and simply being something different to concepts.Kant argues not only that sensibility is a distinct faculty, but that it alsounderlies all other cognition. Sensibility according to Kant is the ability tohave intuitions; the ability to imagine, to form intuitions about objects thatare not physically there. The faculty of understanding on the other hand is theability to form concepts. By recognizing understanding and sensibility to bedistinct faculties, and combining the concept and intuition that they respectivelygenerate, one can make knowledge claims according to Kant.Kantfurther establishes that there are two forms of intuition; space and time.
Theyare the only pure forms of intuition,meaning that they are a priori. They are given to us prior to experience andare what underlie all our other intuitions. He argues that space has to be apriori because spatial representation is necessary for all of our outerintuitions, all information that we receive is spatially formed.
He calls it atranscendental condition, meaning it is the condition of possibility for experience,and we need experience to make objective knowledge of the world possible.Kant arguesthat space is an intuition rather than a concept because concepts are onlygeneral representations of an object. We can for example have a general conceptof an animal, under which many representations of animals fall, all of whichare different. Kant considers space to be an infinite given magnitude, but thatis divisible; “we can present onlyone space; and when we speak of many spaces, we mean by that only parts of oneand the same unique space” (A25/B39). If we then were to have a generalconcept of space, only one object would fall under it, because space isessentially one – but since concepts are generalrepresentation it logically would not follow. Furthermore, since space isan infinite given magnitude it has an infinite amount of presentations withinitself.
Concepts cannot be infinite and therefore space is not a concept.Kant claims a concept gives a general spatial representation of an object, characteristics that canbe shared by other objects. An intuition on the other hand is a singular representation that gives an objectimmediately. Thus, the intuition allows us to single out the specific object fromthe bundle of general characteristics that we have received through our understanding.Bernard Bolzano’s own doctrine of outer intuition agree with Kant’s to thisextent. Bolzano understands, like Kant intended, immediate as giving the object to the mind.
In opposition to Kant, Bolzano considers spatialrelations to be conceptual, not intuitive. The way he sees it, all intuitionsthat come about are in relation to actual objects; “It doesseem quite correct to me … to say that an intuition (that is, a subjectiveone) always concerns an actual, and indeed, if you will, a present (that is,acting on us at the time) individual thing ..
. and that the content of theintuition is not applied to anything other than this thing.” (WL §77.8, I.352)He is of the opinion that all intuitions, at least those that humans arecapable of, correspond to an object in realm of reality. Since space is notsomething actual it can therefore not be an intuition.