Kant and the matter of cognition

William Harold Lentz, Marquette University


When Kant located the ground of knowledge in the subject rather than in the object, he created the possibility of an untenable epistemological program. That is, when the understanding is claimed to comprehensively determine the sensory component of experience, then this empirical component can no longer provide a real world limit for thought. I argue that in Kant's program there is an independent contribution to cognition by sensibility. The implications of this are as follows. First, there can be empirical representations which are not determined by the higher-order faculties. These representations provide cognition with its basic content. Without a content for thought, there would be no explanation of how cognition could get started without resorting to innatism or metaphysical idealism, and Kant rejects both of these alternatives. Here, empirical representations provide a real world limit for thought. However, if this is the case, there must be grounds for sense and reason to interact. I argue that there must be a continuous development from empirical representations to concepts and knowledge, and this development is explained by reference to two factors. The first is the non-epistemic complexity or manifold of the empirical content itself. The second is the concept of amplification. Amplification is opposed to construction, and it refers to the fact that the a priori features of Kant's system make systematic relation possible for thought. The a priori features of Kant's model allow potential information at the level of empirical representation to be brought to actualization in full cognition. The problem with the standard view of Kant is that it places too much emphasis upon the nature of representations rather than upon how those representations are responded to by the subject.

Recommended Citation

William Harold Lentz, "Kant and the matter of cognition" (January 1, 1994). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9517933.