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The Transcendental Deduction of the categories is the heart of the
Critique of Pure Reason. Here Kant argues that we are justi¬ed in apply-
ing pure concepts of the understanding to objects of experience. His
strategy is to show that the categories are necessary conditions for
experiencing objects given in intuition. Kant completely revised this
section in the B edition; here we shall examine both the A and B edi-
tion versions, to understand what was lacking in the 1781 version. As
many readers are disappointed to discover, both deductions treat the
categories as a group. Not until the Principles of Pure Understanding
does Kant defend individual categories.
In the A edition Preface to the Critique, Kant says the deduction
of the categories “has two sides,” one objective, the other subjective.
The objective side must “demonstrate and make comprehensible the
objective validity of its concepts a priori” and thus is essential to his
project. The subjective side is less essential and concerns “the powers
of cognition on which [the understanding] rests” (Axvi“xvii). Many
commentators have assumed that Kant is referring to two distinct
proofs, one concerning conditions for experiencing objects, the other
the subjective sources of experience. As we shall see, there is reason
to reject this reading.
This chapter proceeds as follows. Section 1 treats the introduction,
common to both editions, and then considers the question of the
objective and subjective deductions. The A edition argument and
its weaknesses are the subject of section 2. Section 3 then discusses
the complex B edition argument. Finally, in section 4 I highlight the
revolutionary nature of Kant™s theory of judgment.



103
The Transcendental Deduction
104

1 . t he id ea of a t ra ns ce nd e nta l deduction
The introduction is undoubtedly the most comprehensible part of
the Transcendental Deduction. The ¬rst paragraph explains that a
transcendental deduction is a normative argument justifying the use
of a concept, as opposed to a factual argument concerning its actual
use. Empirical concepts do not require such a deduction because
experience can “prove their objective reality” (A84/B116“17), or their
application to objects of experience. There are also “usurpatory con-
cepts,” such as fortune and fate, whose validity is subject to question.
But the deduction concerns the pure concepts of the understanding,
which are not derived from experience, and therefore require a special
proof to justify their use in experience.
Kant next explains the particular dif¬culty in justifying these con-
cepts. First, transcendental deductions differ from empirical deduc-
tions, which can show only how a concept is acquired through
experience, and thus cannot justify a priori concepts. There are actu-
ally two types of a priori concepts: those originating in the forms of
sensibility, space and time, and those originating in the understand-
ing (A85/B118). His reference to “concepts” of space and time is not
accidental; all mathematical concepts as well as concepts of spatial
and temporal features are also pure despite their basis in the forms
of intuition. From A88 to A90/B120 to B122 Kant explains why it is
more dif¬cult to justify pure concepts produced by the understand-
ing. First, despite their a priori origin, mathematical concepts (e.g., a
triangular shape) can be displayed in intuition, but this is not true of
concepts such as substance“accident and cause“effect. Second, Kant
believes the Aesthetic proofs that space and time are forms of intuition
establish the validity of spatiotemporal and mathematical concepts for
objects given to the senses. By contrast, pure concepts of the under-
standing have no original connection to the sensibility, and so their
application to appearances demands an additional argument. As he
says at A90/B122“3, objects given in intuition must accord with the
pure forms of sensibility since “otherwise they would not be objects
for us”; but that they must also accord with the conditions of thought
“is a conclusion that is not so easily seen.” And just below: “Appear-
ances would nonetheless offer objects to our intuition, for intuition
by no means requires the functions of thinking” (A90“1/B123).
The Transcendental Deduction 105
Now it is important not to misunderstand this point. Kant will
in fact argue that for any intuition to represent an object, it must be
subject to the categories. All he is claiming here is that the indepen-
dence of the sensibility from the intellect entails the logical possibility
that we receive sensory data to which pure concepts do not apply. For
example, appearances might be so haphazard that no causal con-
nections can be discerned. The problem is precisely how subjective
forms of thought can apply necessarily to the data given through the
senses.
At section 14 Kant details his strategy. He reiterates the alternatives
previously outlined: either the object makes the representation possi-
ble, or the representation makes the object possible. In the ¬rst case,
the representation depends on the nature of the object, and so only
a posteriori representations can arise. By implication, the only way
a representation can apply necessarily to an object is if it makes the
object possible. Kant is careful to specify at A92/B125, however, that
only the nature and not the existence of the object depends on the
representation. Thus by “making the object possible” Kant means
the representation presents as an object whatever is given to us as exist-
ing. Clearly he rejects the phenomenalist view that particular acts of
representing bring objects into existence.
Following this analysis, the issue is whether pure concepts are nec-
essary conditions under which anything can be “thought as object in
general” (A93/B125“6). If so, then these concepts are presupposed in
all experience of objects. The Transcendental Deduction must show
that pure concepts of the understanding relate “a priori to objects of
experience, since only by means of them can any object of experience
be thought at all” (A93/B126). In closing the A edition Introduction,
Kant lists the three subjective sources of experience: sense, imagina-
tion, and apperception or self-consciousness, which is the ultimate
basis of the understanding. He also remarks that each of these capac-
ities has both empirical and transcendental functions. By contrast,
the B edition emphasizes the failures of the empiricists to account for
such concepts as substance and causality. Unlike Locke, Hume recog-
nized the impossibility of a straightforward empirical deduction. But
since he did not think the mind could produce ideas independent of
impressions, Hume traced metaphysical concepts to the psychological
process of association, thus offering an indirect empirical deduction.
The Transcendental Deduction
106
As Kant sees it, Hume mistakes the objective necessity of pure con-
cepts for a merely subjective necessity based on experience.
Before proceeding, let us return to Kant™s distinction between an
objective and a subjective deduction. Taken literally, the objective
proof should proceed without any reference to subjective capacities.
But since this is not possible, commentators have gone to interesting
lengths to identify the two sides.1 In Kant and the Mind, however,
Andrew Brook sensibly remarks that both editions base the objective
validity of the categories on the theory of synthesis, an account of the
subjective sources of experience. Thus the distinction cannot mark
out two different proofs.2 In fact, Kant makes the same point at A97.
Since the objective validity of the categories depends on their necessity
for thinking of objects, “we must ¬rst assess not the empirical but the
transcendental constitution of the subjective sources that comprise
the a priori foundations for the possibility of experience” (A96“7).
Clearly the distinction between “objective” and “subjective” sides of
the deduction marks two aspects of one argument. In fact, Kant
drops the distinction in the B edition, where the argument is clearly
continuous.

2 . th e a ed ition d e du cti on
Everyone agrees that the 1781 proof fails miserably. Nevertheless, the
argument introduces the key notions of the synthesis of imagination,
the transcendental unity of apperception, and the correlation between
objectivity and subjectivity. Moreover, independently of Kant™s larger
project, it soundly refutes the empiricist doctrine that all ideas are
derived from experience. Finally, the contrast between the A and B
edition deductions brings into relief the key elements of the more
successful proof. Thus there are good reasons to examine the ¬rst
edition proof.
Kant begins by claiming that it is impossible for an a priori concept
to represent an object independently of intuition, for only intuition
can give objective reality or content to the concept. Otherwise it
1 Whereas Kemp Smith claims the B edition ignores the subjective side, Paton thinks both
sides appear in both editions. See Kemp Smith, Commentary, xliv, 235“48 passim; and Paton,
Kant™s Metaphysic of Experience, 1:350“3, 499ff, 526ff.
2 Brook, Kant and the Mind, 120.
The Transcendental Deduction 107
would “be only the logical form for a concept,” and not a concept
through which one thinks an object. Since the “objective reality”
of a concept is its application to whatever exists, his point is that
the content of any meaningful concept must relate in some way to
spatiotemporal appearances. If it failed to do so, the concept might
have the logical form of a predicate, namely generality, but would
lack any feature allowing us to recognize instances in experience.
At A96 Kant says establishing the validity of pure concepts requires
demonstrating their necessity for experience of objects.
Kant next makes a point essential to the deduction, that to qualify
as a cognition, a representation must be inherently complex. Perhaps
because of its intuitive plausibility, he offers no support for it here,
remarking only that cognition “is a whole of compared and connected
representations” (A97). At A99 he implicitly links this claim to the
fact that all representations occur in one time. According to this view,
a simple, unanalyzable impression could not by itself represent an
object. In the B edition Kant justi¬es the complexity of cognition
more systematically.
Although most commentators take the four numbered sections
detailing the threefold synthesis to constitute the A edition deduction,
the Preliminary Remark claims that this discussion is only prepara-
tory to the systematic exposition, located in section 3. In fact, that
later discussion contains many points that assume prominence in the
B edition deduction. Despite Kant™s description of that exposition as
systematic, his failure to present a uni¬ed argument clearly necessi-
tated the complete reworking of the deduction.
To understand the A edition strategy we need to recognize his
peculiar treatment of the threefold synthesis. As Paton points out, the
three “parts” are not separate stages but different ways of describing
the same process. The parts are related in Chinese box fashion, so
that each subsequently described synthesis is contained in the stage
previously described.3 Thus the ¬rst description, of the synthesis of
apprehension in intuition, gives the most general characterization.
Kant then argues that that process must include the second “part,” the
synthesis of reproduction in the imagination. The third step similarly
argues that the synthesis of reproduction presupposes the synthesis

3 See Paton, Kant™s Metaphysic of Experience, 1:354“5.
The Transcendental Deduction
108
of recognition in the concept. Finally Kant introduces the ultimate
necessary condition of the entire complex process, the transcendental
unity of apperception or “I think.”
Kant begins the three-step argument by claiming that all repre-
sentations are subject to time, and therefore bear temporal relations
to every other representation (A98“9). Consequently “they must all
be ordered, connected, and brought into relations” in time. He next
returns to his characterization of cognition as complex, pointing out
that as a cognition of an object, every intuition contains a manifold.
In order to recognize this complexity, we must apprehend the parts
successively, at distinct times. The process of unifying the successively
apprehended parts into one representation is the synthesis of appre-
hension in intuition. Kant says that although the intuition provides
a manifold, it cannot be “contained in one representation, without the
occurrence of such a synthesis” (A99). Not until the next step does
he attribute this activity to the imagination.
This ¬rst step assumes that we in fact have empirical intuitions
that we recognize as complex. A complex representation is a repre-
sentation of a single, uni¬ed thing made up of parts. Recognizing the
complexity means being aware of both the parts and their unity. To
intuit an apple, for example, as red, hard, juicy, in a certain space, and
existing through a certain time, means representing it as one object
having these diverse characteristics. Now because the sensibility pas-
sively receives the intuitive data, our recognition of both complexity
and unity requires us actively to discriminate the parts before unify-
ing them. As Kant says, “for as contained in one moment no rep-
resentation can ever be anything other than absolute unity” (A99).
In other words, any data apprehended only instantaneously or non-
successively cannot be recognized as having parts. Now this view has
an interesting implication, namely that the manifold of intuition is
not composed of absolute or “simple” parts. Because space and time
are in¬nitely divisible, any intuited manifold can be discriminated
into parts of any degree of complexity (e.g., spatial and temporal
parts). In consequence, the degree of complexity is relative, depend-
ing on the ¬neness with which one discriminates parts. Kant™s point
is that producing a uni¬ed complex representation presupposes two
distinct capacities: apprehending the parts successively and unifying
them into a whole.
The Transcendental Deduction 109
At A99“100 Kant remarks in passing that synthesis must also be
performed on the a priori manifold given in intuition. Space and
time, too, are represented as wholes divisible into parts. Just as sense
impressions must be connected to represent uni¬ed objects, so the
spatial and temporal data must be connected to represent one space
and one time. This hints at the dual role of pure intuition: as forms
of sensibility, space and time provide frameworks for receiving the
empirical data; as pure manifolds, they provide a content for pure
concepts of the understanding. The A edition focus on empirical
intuition obscures the crucial second role, a defect remedied in 1787.
Here Kant merely asserts that there is a pure as well as an empirical
synthesis of apprehension. He should say, of course, that the synthesis
of apprehension has both pure and empirical aspects.
The next step argues that for the synthesis of apprehension to occur,
the imagination must reproduce representations. Unfortunately the
order of presentation muddles the argument, which has two steps.
The main point, located in the second half of the second paragraph, is
that apprehending identi¬able objects requires reproducing in imag-
ination the previously apprehended parts. Kant then argues that this
process is a transcendental act of the imagination, presupposed in
all empirical association. The entire argument assumes that when
we have a single complex representation, we are aware of both the
discriminated parts and the unity binding them into a whole. Now
previously Kant stated that the parts must be discriminated in suc-
cessive moments. So to end up with a uni¬ed representation, the
imagination must reproduce the parts previously apprehended. Con-
sider the example of counting. The resulting number is a complex
whole composed of units. Kant points out that if one did not repro-
duce the previously apprehended units as one progresses, “no whole
representation . . . could ever arise” (A102). When counting to two,
for example, one must think of the second unit as distinct from the
¬rst unit. Otherwise one would merely apprehend one unit twice.
But in order to represent this relation between the two units, the
imagination must actually reproduce the thought of the ¬rst unit.
The same is true in drawing a line or thinking of some period of
time. Each succeeding part must be thought in its relation to the
already apprehended parts to represent the entire line or time period.
As Michael Young points out, this does not mean “reliving” the
The Transcendental Deduction
110
experience, but rather incorporating the thought of the previous parts
into the thought of each successively represented part.4 These exam-
ples are noteworthy because they involve the synthesis of parts of space
and time: even our a priori intuitions provide cognition only on the
condition that they contain a thoroughgoing synthesis of reproduc-
tion. Consequently the synthesis of imagination is grounded “on a
priori principles, and one must assume a pure transcendental synthe-
sis of this power, which grounds even the possibility of all experience”
(A101).
Kant reinforces this conclusion at A100“1, by criticizing attempts
to derive ideas of objects from associations based on experience. Here
he argues that the psychological process of association presupposes
the a priori synthesis of the manifolds of space and time. Suppose,
for example, that smelling a certain odor evokes a certain childhood
memory. In this empirical association, the imagination must con-
nect not only the qualitative aspects but also the times and places of
the two experiences. But the ground that permits identifying times
and spaces cannot be derived from the association, since spatiotemp-
oral regions are presupposed in discriminating experiences. Thus
Kant concludes that the imagination must perform a transcenden-
tal function, presupposed by experience, enabling us to “call up” the
previously apprehended parts of the manifold. Reproducibility is a
necessary condition for representing not only empirical objects but
also space and time themselves as complex wholes.
The third section is the most complex, for here Kant introduces
both the relation between concepts and the transcendental unity of
apperception, and the correlation between objectivity and subjec-
tivity. In this way he relates pure concepts to both the necessity of
self-consciousness and the idea of objectivity. Unfortunately, the argu-
ment is completely done in by its unsystematic presentation. Kant
¬rst argues that the synthesis of reproduction requires the synthesis
of recognition in a concept: “Without consciousness that that which
we think is the very same as what we thought a moment before, all
reproduction in the series of representations would be in vain” (A103).
This requires the use of concepts because recognizing something as
the same thing previously apprehended requires conceiving that thing
under some predicate F. In counting, for example, one can reproduce

4 Young, “Kant™s View of Imagination,” especially 147ff.
The Transcendental Deduction 111
previously apprehended units only if one recognizes the reproduced
parts as the same units previously apprehended. Ultimately, to repre-
sent the resulting integer, we must conceive the units as parts related
by the addition operation: Kant says the concept of number “consists
solely in the consciousness of this unity of the synthesis” (A103). In
other words, to generate representations of uni¬ed things composed
of parts, we must employ concepts of both the whole towards which
one is progressing, as well as the parts composing it. Although Kant
has not yet connected these concepts to the categories, he has shown
that a system for conceiving part“whole relations is presupposed in
experience of complex particulars.
The remainder of this passage links pure concepts to the experience
of objectivity and the necessity of self-consciousness. Kant™s presen-
tation is so badly organized, however, that it is not easy to see the
connections between these ideas. From A103 to A111 he appears to
make this argument:
1. Consciousness of conceptual unity presupposes a unitary con-
sciousness. (A103“4)
2. The notion of an object of representation includes the idea of a
necessary unity. (A104“6; A108“9)
3. Consciousness of objective unity requires a transcendental self-
consciousness (as opposed to an empirical self-consciousness).
Awareness of this identical self makes possible the notion of a
transcendental object. (A106“7; A108)
4. A transcendental self-consciousness is consciousness of unity of
synthesis by means of pure concepts. (A107“8)
5. Thus the pure concepts are presupposed in all objective awareness.
(A109“11)
One can see from this summary why the A edition deduction is
deemed a failure. Nevertheless, let us examine the main points, to
prepare for the B edition proof.
At A103“4 Kant connects the unity thought through concepts with
a unitary consciousness. We saw that in counting, the concept of the
number represents the whole resulting from a successive addition of
units. Like the concept of number, all concepts represent the unity
of a manifold, insofar as they are ways of thinking part“whole rela-
tions. Now Kant argues that consciousness of conceptual unity pre-
supposes a unitary consciousness. To end up with a single complex
The Transcendental Deduction
112
representation, the manifold being uni¬ed must be united in a single
consciousness. William James revisited this point in the nineteenth
century by arguing that giving each of twelve persons one word of
a twelve-word sentence does not result in any consciousness of the
entire sentence.5 Despite its necessity, however, Kant says we may not
always be aware of this unity of consciousness:
This consciousness may often only be weak, so that we connect it with
the generation of the representation only in the effect, but not in the act
itself, i.e., immediately; but regardless of these differences one consciousness
must always be found, even if it lacks conspicuous clarity, and without that
concepts, and with them cognition of objects, would be entirely impossible.
(A103“4)

Although it is not apparent, Kant is getting at more than the point
that “it takes one to know one,” as Allison puts it.6 For from A107
on, Kant wants to connect concepts not just to numerically identical
consciousness, but to awareness of the identity of consciousness, that
is, identical self-consciousness. His term for this self-consciousness is
the transcendental unity of apperception (henceforth t.u.a.). This slide
from a unitary consciousness to a necessary self-consciousness is one
weakness in the A edition argument.
Kant actually introduces the necessity of self-consciousness
through an analysis of objectivity, which he then connects to pure
concepts. At A104“5 he notes that the object of a representation is
thought of as something “corresponding to and therefore also distinct
from the cognition.” That is, in taking a mental state to represent an
object, I at least implicitly distinguish the object from my awareness
of it. Although I may think that my awareness corresponds to the
object, I must also recognize that the object is independent of it. This
leads to the second aspect, the necessity implied by objectivity. Kant
says the object is that which prevents “cognitions being determined
at pleasure or arbitrarily rather than being determined a priori, since
insofar as they are to relate to an object our cognitions must also
necessarily agree with each other in relation to it” (A104). Represen-
tations of an object must conform to the rules governing it, and hence
they must possess a necessary unity. At A109 Kant labels the object of
5 Cited by Kemp Smith, Commentary, 459.
6 Allison, Kant™s Transcendental Idealism, 139.
The Transcendental Deduction 113
a representation the “transcendental object = X.” This notion of the
transcendental object is merely formal and has no particular content;
it is common to every representation of an objective state of affairs.
Kant says it “cannot contain any determinate intuition at all,” and
thus represents only the unity of a “manifold of cognition insofar as
it stands in relation to an object” (A109).
The next stage connects the necessary unity of the transcendental
object to the t.u.a. Recall that the Aesthetic argues that we are directly
acquainted only with appearances, which, from the transcendental
standpoint, are our own representations. Whatever the appearances
stand for “ the thing in itself “ is a cipher (X) to us. Since we can-
not get “behind” the appearance, our awareness of unity cannot be
derived from the thing itself. By elimination, the only source of this
necessary unity is the subject, the unity of consciousness: “the unity
that the object makes necessary can be nothing other than the for-
mal unity of the consciousness in the synthesis of the manifold of
representations” (A105). In short, the data of intuition acquires its
representative relation to an object only when it is brought to the
t.u.a. The thought that what appears in intuition is an object existing

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