In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Colin Falck STRUCTURE AND INTUITION I KANT'S ANSWER, in his Critique ofPure Reason, to the Humean problem that there seemed to be no way of explaining the principle of our experiential unity, of what it is that holds us together as experiencing selves or consciousnesses, was to argue that it was language itselfwhich underlay the whole possibility of our self-consciousness and of our consciousness of a world of objects around us. Experience would not be possible without a unified consciousness, and a unified consciousness is only possible for us because of the use which we make of certain concepts of"the objects of experience ." ' Kant argues at some length that there can be no perceptual experience without conceptual language, and in particular without our use of what he calls the a priori "categories" or "pure concepts of understanding " (CPR, B. 102 et seq.). (A similar, but more sophisticated, argument about the necessary dependence of perceptual experience on conceptual language was developed later by Wittgenstein.) Saussure, in his Course in General Linguistics,2 though never it seems in a fully aware or explicit way, founds his entire argument on this Kantian conclusion when he remarks that the notion "that ready-made ideas exist before words" is "open to criticism at several points" (p. 65), and goes on to elaborate a view of linguistic meanings as based in the relationships which hold between linguistic terms or units themselves rather than in any kind of "namingprocess " or "correspondence" between individual words and the things that they name (pp. 65, 111-18). A difficulty which faces, and which (unless certain amendments are made) must ultimately invalidate, the account of experience and language which Kant sets out in the Critique of Pure Reason is that the Kantian experiencing self, even though it is a concept-using and therefore perhaps 184 Colin Falck185 logically plausible subject, is at the same time also a disembodied subject. To that extent it is open to some of the same objections that can be brought against Descartes's conception of the thinking subject, or ego, as the foundation of all our experiencing. The problem which Kant did not recognize is that there could be no way for us to know about the existence of other experiencing agents, or therefore to have any awareness of the distinction between ourselves and other selves, if we could not in fact see the putative other person as an experiencing and thinking consciousness. To see another person in this way it must be possible to see him as, and it must be essential to his identity that he should really be, an embodied consciousness, rather than merely a Cartesian disembodied ego or (since the same arguments must apply) a Kantian disembodied concept-using self. (Without being embodied or located, there is no way for the Kantian self to be a perceiving agent with an identity which endures through time: the mere "unity of self-consciousness" which Kant offers us does not in fact give us any solution to Hume's problem at all.) The body, we might say, is that realm in which, or through which, we have our contact with, and therefore our awareness of, other consciousnesses ā€” and at the same time, by contrast, our awareness of our own selfhood or consciousness as well.3 We cannot see another person only as "external" behavior, but must necessarily see his behavior as already inhabited by mind or spirit. Were this not so, there would be no way, to use the Kantian or "transcendental" turn of argument, for us to have the kind of experience which we indisputably do have. Ultimately therefore, if we reflect on the deficiencies of the Kantian position in the "disembodied" form in which Kant himself sets it out, we shall be obliged to recognize that the only kind of concept which will make the required connections between the "inside" and the "outside" of human behavior ā€” a logical gap which seems all too easily to open up beneath us in this area ā€” will be some kind of concept oĆ­ sympathy, or of preconscious imitative identification, which, by bridging the divide between "internally experienced" consciousness and "externally observable" movement, makes it...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 184-197
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.