XI KANT KONGRESS, XI Congresso Kantiano Internazionale

Kant on Infima Species

Eric Watkins

Edificio: Palazzo dei Congressi
Sala: Auditorium
Data: 24 maggio 2010 - 14:30
Ultima modifica: 13 aprile 2010


In the Jäsche Logic Kant claims that there can be neither a lowest nor a next species and that both of these points follow from a principle that he calls the law of continuity. Prima facie, these claims are puzzling. For the fact, if it is one, that there can be no lowest species, that is, no species that does not contain further species subordinated to it, but instead applies immediately to individuals, seems to be completely distinct from the fact, if it is one, that there must always be species in between any two other species. If one thinks of numbers by way of analogy, the fact that there is no lowest number seems completely distinct from the fact that there is always a number between any two numbers. And it is far from clear that both of these claims might follow in any unproblematic way from the principle of continuity. The first claim, that there is no lowest species, does not obviously follow at all from the principle of continuity, given that we can imagine continuous magnitudes that are bound at both ends. Instead, the most natural expectation is that it would follow from Kant’s account of concepts and intuitions. The second claim, that there is always a further species in between any two others, seems, prima facie, to be identical to the principle of continuity, which would make it not false, but at least odd to say that it follows from it. And even if these two claims can be said to follow from the principle of continuity, it is not immediately clear why one must accept the principle of continuity in the first place.
These puzzles can be resolved by close consideration of the Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic’s section “On the regulative use of the ideas of pure reason,” specifically, by appreciating Kant’s robust conception of reason and its unity. For it turns out that the positions in question follow from reason’s defining principle of searching for the totality of conditions for what is conditioned and thus for the unconditioned. It also highlights the limitations not to our passive sensibility, but even to the understanding.