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  • The Post-Critical Kant by Bryan Wesley Hall
  • Giovanni Pietro Basile
Bryan Wesley Hall. The Post-Critical Kant. New York: Routledge, 2015. Pp. x + 220. Cloth, $140.00.

Hall’s monograph aims to demonstrate that Kant’s Opus postumum (OP) fills a crucial gap in Kant’s critical philosophy concerning the notion of substance in the analogies of experience from the Critique of Pure Reason (CPR). It is organized into an introduction, five chapters and a short recapitulatory conclusion.

The first chapter argues that Kant, in the analogies of experience, uses two mutually irreducible notions of substance: the first refers to the plurality of “relatively enduring empirical objects”; the second is the notion of a singular “sempiternal and omnipresent Substance” (36). As the category of substance suits only the “substances,” Kant needs a complementary a priori concept of substance that fits the notion of the unified material whole. The a priori concept of the ether in OP will provide such a notion of substance.

As Hall shows in chapter 2, the a priori concept of the ether is radically different from the notion of the ether in the critical works and in the earlier leaves of OP, where the ether remains merely a hypothetical physical entity, a regulative concept applied to the domain of empirical physics. The transcendental concept of the ether is instead conceived as a dynamic substance: “a collectively moving unified material whole, continuously expanded, and a constantly agitating plenum of dynamic (attractive and repulsive) forces” (72). It is a concept; nonetheless it is also “actual insofar as it is the transcendentally necessary material condition of experience” (115).

Kant carries out several attempts at the ether deduction in the draft Übergang 1–14. In chapter 3, Hall reconstructs this deduction on the basis of Übergang 11, which he considers to be “the most compelling formulation of the Ether Deduction” (94). Hall stresses that the whole ether deduction hinges upon the rejection of empty space as an object of possible experience (106). He argues that, although the ether deduction succeeds in adding a transcendental material condition for the unity of experience to the cognitive formal transcendental conditions of experience in CPR, all these principles are necessary but not sufficient for the unity of experience.

According to Hall (chapter 4), Kant deals with this problem in the draft Convolute 10–11, where he complements the ether as material principle with the concept of the ether as formal principle, namely, that of an elementary system of the moving forces of matter as an a priori conceptual condition for the unity of experience. Kant demonstrates the unity of experience through a double synthesis. First, the moving forces of matter generate subjective perceptions of the ether (direct appearances) in the subject that the apperception transforms into a distributive unity of objective perceptions of substances (indirect appearances) by subsuming them under the categories. Apperception then organizes the manifold of objective perceptions into a single experience (the absolute unity of consciousness) by inserting the formal concept of the ether into it. Thanks to this double synthesis, Kant succeeds in establishing the correspondence between world and mind, and so resolves the transition problem. As this requires both the transcendental material and formal functions of the ether, Kant can also fill the gap in his critical philosophy by adding to the category of substance (adequate for the substances) a new concept of substance, that is, the ether.

In chapter 5, Hall applies the achievements of Kant’s transition project to the problem of affection, especially with respect to the theory of double affection that has been elaborated by some early interpreters of OP (Hans Vaihinger, Erich Adickes, and Norman Kemp Smith), which affirms the transcendent affection of the transcendental subject through things in themselves. To avoid the insurmountable philosophical and textual problems that transcendent affection faces, Hall develops a wholly phenomenal interpretation of affection in OP. He explains empirical affection as the effect of spatiotemporal, causal, intrinsic relations between ether and apperception mutually determining one another through their activity in the phenomenal world. [End Page 342]

Hall’s study offers a very clear, rigorous, stimulating and original attempt to reconstruct the systematic continuity between Kant...


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pp. 342-343
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