Thursday, 18 November 2010

Maimon and Sensible Objects

In my last posting on Maimon I looked at the ways in which his view of quality marked an important departure from the argument of the Anticipations of Perception in the Critique of Pure Reason. Now, staying within the second chapter of the Essay, I want to look next at how Maimon begins there to present a distinct account of sensible objects.

Maimon starts by comparing the sensation of two colours and asks how the difference between them (one red and one green) is to be treated. Maimon thus assumes that identity and difference (concepts of reflection for Kant) are pure concepts of understanding. There are reasons for thinking that Kant himself has to accept this as I set out in the fourth chapter of my book Kant's Transcendental Imagination but it is not Kant's "official" position. But clearly the difference between the sensible qualities can't have emerged from the qualities themselves so must be grounded on something else. Rather than mentioning here that Kant has the concepts of reflection Maimon refers instead to an explanation based on the a priori forms of space as the Kantian account. This is then contrasted with Maimon's own appeal to the differentials.

The contrast between appealing to differentials on the one hand and a priori forms of space on the other is only the first stage in Maimon's account. It is followed up by another direct reference to the Anticipations of Perception when Maimon declares that the understanding can only think of "objects" as flowing. This is a peculiar statement since when Kant describes "flowing magnitudes" in the Anticipations it is clear he is speaking of sensations and has not yet arrived at a concept of the "object" in any full-fledged sense. However Maimon defends this view of the understanding's grasp of objects by reference to what Kant has stated concerning the operation of a rule by the understanding.

The understanding produces unity in the manifold states Maimon, summarizing Kant. This is then interpreted as follows: "it can only think an object by specifying the way it arises or the rule by which it arises". Given this view the understanding cannot take the object as having arisen but only as arising. However, if we take the former part of the conjunctive claim here, we can state that the understanding shows the manner of possibility of the combination that produces the object and in that way specifies what it is to say that there are objects. The condition of possibility is grasped (which is the process by which arising can take place) and having been grasped the conceptual operation can place itself at the conclusion of the process (thereby showing an object given as such). Maimon cannot see it this way as he identifies the rule of arising of the object with the differentials that underlie the objects and so, given the manner he has of expressing the distinction between objects through differentials it is a result of his view (and not of Kant's) that the understanding cannot give a concept of an object as other than something arising.

Maimon next regresses to the genesis of the process by which an object is given on his differential view. There is an intuition and a rule which determines it and this latter is not itself given as something flowing but as given "all at once". Although the rule is given this way, the intuition is not so given as it rather flows. An example follows that helps to make clearer why Maimon presents it like this. The example concerns the triangle. In general if two sides of a triangle are given we get the instantaneous rule concerning the third part and how it has to be given. However, this is a process in general and if we are  relating to a particular determinate triangle the relations and proportions are not determinately given by the generic rule. The determination can clearly be distinct in different triangles. So the particular construction, whilst it follows a general rule, is itself flowing which seems to mean its execution is not determinately something that can be stated by expression of the universal rule.

The problem having been stated by means of the understanding is next set out from the side of the intuition. Intuitively we have been given a magnitude which conforms to rules but the manifold of intuition itself is not something that comprehends rules. So intuitively we have given something that is, not something that is becoming. Another way of putting this point is to say that intuitively the synthesis of apprehension (A99) is quite sufficient: this gives us a line or point. However, to comprehend the line we have to have more than this, we need to be able to show the manner of construction and this dependence on showing the manner limits understanding to the standpoint of becoming. So, in intuition we have being without an account of becoming but in understanding we have an account of becoming that explains being but never arrives at a stable comprehension of being. I'll follow up further aspects of this argument of Chapter 2 in future postings.


Liberation said...

Great resources here. I’ll be back for the next your posting. keep writing and happy blogging.

Gary Banham said...

Thanks very much for that: always pleased to hear that people find the blog worth reading!