Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Maimon and Kant on Intuition (II)

Without yet moving beyond the discussion of Chapter 1 of Maimon's Essay I want to consider the account of space and time a bit further and, especially, the objections Maimon has to the notion Kant offers in the Transcendental Aesthetic that space and time are pure intuitions. This claim is one that the argument of Chapter 1 appears to be principally directed against (as is apparent from the closing sentence of the chapter). However when reading the chapter it takes some time to work out precisely what it is that Maimon is objecting to in Kant's characterisation of space and time as pure intuitions, not least because Maimon is happy to endorse the view that there are such things as pure time and pure space (the former being the object of arithmetic - number - and the latter being the object of geometry). These notions of pure time and pure space are distinguished by him from pure intuition as, Maimon claims, in the cases of pure time and pure space we have conceptual determinations. In support of this claim Maimon talks about time as a way of relating objects to each other and suggests that for the points of time to be distinguished we require a reference to something in the points of time. Here Maimon takes it that without some sense of substance and accident the points of time will not be separated. 

This sense Maimon has of the way in which the distinct elements of space and time are distinguished for us in perception seems to be connected to his general problem with "pure intuition". Maimon seems to think of pure intuition on the model of absolute space and time and when he discusses the basis for the "fiction" that space and time are intuitive he argues that what happens in understanding space and time in this way is that something relative is taken to be absolute. The basis for this claim seems to be that if there is an homogeneous space then there are no parts sufficient to make difference available so that something heterogeneous is required. The heterogeneous that is required is in the matter and space/time are forms of relation between the heterogeneous matters but, if they were purely heterogeneous, there could again be no unity.

Maimon's arguments against pure intuition thus appear to be a form of Leibnizian argument against thinking of space/time as anything other than relations and an insistence that these relations only work to determine anything that is given independently of them which is why he appears to conclude Chapter 1 with the argument that space and time are only "empirical" intuitions or, as he also puts it there, are "predicates" of intuitions. 

One question that emerges as fairly obvious from thinking further about this chapter is whether it is right, as Paul Franks suggested in his paper to the Maimon conference, to say that Maimon takes intuitions to be particulars. This seems correct in terms of Maimon's argument for thinking about the conditions of distinguishability of parts requiring specification and to point to why he has a problem with the view that there is a "pure" intuition but if that's right then Franks' point may need to be slightly refined. It is not that Maimon takes Kant's intuitions (i.e., his forms of intuition) as particulars but that he comprehends the representation that can be called "intuitive" (perhaps that of formal intuition?) to involve particulars in order for determination to take place. Though if that's right then perhaps Maimon's account of the "empirical" nature of intuitions can be re-phrased in Henry Allison's vocabulary as saying that his conception of intuition is that there are, in experience, only formal intuitions?

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