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Absolute Positing, the Frege Anticipation Thesis, and Kant's Definitions of Judgment



Abstract: Kant follows a substantial tradition by defining judgment so that it must involve a relation of concepts, which raises the question of why he thinks that single-term existential judgments should still qualify as judgments. There is a ready explanation if Kant is somehow anticipating a Fregean second-order account of existence, an interpretation that is already widely held for separate reasons. This paper examines Kant's early (1763) critique of Wolffian accounts of existence, finding that it provides the key idea in his mature model of existential judgment, which is in fact sharply opposed to the Fregean strategy. By relating this to Kant's theory of judgment in general—in particular, to his claim for an isomorphism between the assertoric function of judgment and the category of existence—a preliminary case is made that absolute positing, far from being a marginal special case, accomplishes the primary function of judgment. This argument shows the importance of distinguishing between contexts in which Kant is treating judgment as a vehicle for inference (e.g. pure general logic) and contexts in which he is treating it, more robustly, as the cognition of an object.