Kant on Intentionality, Magnitude, and the Unity of Perception



This paper addresses a number of closely related questions concerning Kant's model of intentionality, and his conceptions of unity and of magnitude [Gröβe]. These questions are important because they shed light on three issues which are central to the Critical system, and which connect directly to the recent analytic literature on perception: the issues are conceptualism, the status of the imagination, and perceptual atomism. In Section 1, I provide a sketch of the exegetical and philosophical problems raised by Kant's views on these issues. I then develop, in Section 2, a detailed analysis of Kant's theory of perception as elaborated in both the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Judgment; I show how this analysis provides a preliminary framework for resolving the difficulties raised in Section 1. In Section 3, I extend my analysis of Kant's position by considering a specific test case: the Axioms of Intuition. I contend that one way to make sense of Kant's argument is by juxtaposing it with Russell's response to Bradley's regress; I focus in particular on the concept of ‘unity’. Finally, I offer, in Section 4, a philosophical assessment of the position attributed to Kant in Sections 2 and 3. I argue that, while Kant's account has significant strengths, a number of key areas remain underdeveloped; I suggest that the phenomenological tradition may be read as attempting to fill precisely those gaps.