Is it the Understanding or the Imagination that Synthesizes?

Kant Studien 113 (3):535-554 (2022)
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Abstract

A common reading of Kant’s notion of synthesis takes it to be carried out by the imagination in a manner guided by the concepts of the understanding. I point to a significant problem for this reading: it is the reproductive imagination that carries out the syntheses of apprehension and reproduction, and Kant claims repeatedly that the reproductive imagination is governed solely by its own laws of association. In light of this, I argue for a different division of the labor of synthesis between the imagination and the understanding. On my view, while the reproductive imagination puts representations together in accordance with laws of association, the understanding recognizes these combinations of representations as necessary in virtue of corresponding to a connection in the objects represented. I conclude by suggesting that a virtue of my account is that it can make sense of Kant’s claim that the relational categories are merely regulative for intuitions.

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