Waxman, W. (1991): Kant's Model of the Mind: A New Interpretation of Transcendental Idealism

Ch. 8 The Faculty-Endowed Mind

Here’s the reasonable challenge that Waxman frames at the outset:

the faculty-endowed mind confronts us with what appears to be a quite determinate thing in itself right at the very center of Kant’s supposedly critical philosophy: the source and ground of our various modes of representation; something possessed of a definite constitution; something which acts and is acted upon (by both itself and other things in themselves); and so on. This is very difficult to reconcile with other Kantian doctrines which, prima facie, are sure to seem far more deserving of the epithet ‘critical’: the restriction of the categories to possible experience; the limit of sensibility to phenomena; the problematic status of the concept of a noumenon; and others. The joint implication of these doctrines is that the individuation and determination of things in themselves wholly exceeds our capacity. So how could Kant possibly have thought it legitimate to base so much of his philosophy on so obviously suspect a conception as the faculty-endowed mind? [@waxman1991, 272]

He puts things even more sharply subsequently:

if it is impossible for its secrets to be revealed to us, how can we even know so much as that it is a mind (and not something wholly different)? that the secret of the origin of sensiblity lies there and not elsewhere? that it is not many but one? that it has various faculties besides sensibility? and that each faculty has its own specific constitution (equipped to yield, e.g., formal intuitions of space and time rather than some other kind)? [@waxman1991, 273]

Unfortunately I don’t think we ever get a satisfying answer to these questions out of Waxman. Waxman argues that the subject as given in pure apperception is a mere appearance, though an “intellectual phenomenon” (p. 283). He also construes spontaneity as a phenomenon (284).

The answers Waxman posits depend on the details of his positive view of the imagination, the pure formal intuitions, and the synthesis of apprehension that are all expanded upon in his later book [-@waxman2014]. Here’s his solution to the first problem, that objects and their representations have their numerically same ground.

Kant’s conception of sense thus implies that at the point where the question of relation to a nonrepresentational transcendental object/ground arises, it is no longer possible to distinguish objects (phenomena,) from their representations (intuitions and concepts). That is, in the superimaginational context of intrarepresentational transcendental reality, there is nothing left on the object side save sensations, and these, as formless, are no longer ‘objects’ in the sense relevant to the “Copernican” experiment. (287)

As for the second issue,

We now come to the next portion ofthe problem of the faculty-endowed mind: granted that the transcendental object!ground of representation is numerically one in the sense just described, what justification is there for construing it as a mind rather than, say, Spinozan absolute substance? Perhaps the best response is that the transcendental object in question is a ground uniquely of representation-sense affection and consciousness of the determinative self as spontaneity. Since Spinozan absolute substance was specifically intended as a ground of much else besides representation (i.e., extension and all the other attributes in addition to thought), it is therefore most natural and correct to denominate Kant’s ground a ‘mind’ rather than anything else. Similarly, it may be termed ‘receptivity’ insofar as it grounds synoptic affection, and ‘determinative subject’ insofar as it grounds the spontaneity of perception, intuition, and thought. Beyond this, no justification can (or need) be given for Kant’s use of these terms. (287)

But since extension is just a property had by objects (partly) in virtue of our form of outer intuition, there can be no restriction in the manner Waxman suggests. So it looks like even Waxman’s qualified defense of Kant on this second point fails. But Waxman’s defense is really not meant to succeed, for as he says “In the end, one is obliged to conclude that Kant’s fundamental descriptive categories-‘representation’ (entailing a ‘represented’) and ‘thing in itself’-lack any warrant.” [@waxman1991, 290].

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