Kant, Intuition and Direction of Fit

Nothing teaches better than teaching.  I’ve been trying to ease (!) my Intro students into Kant’s Prolegomena.  In the last class, we talked about directions of fit, world-to-mind and mind-to-world.  It had never struck me (clearly) that Kant’s story about intuition makes it the case that pure intuition enjoys one direction of fit, world-to-mind, while empirical intuition enjoys another direction of fit, mind-to-world*.  I suppose that is or ought to have been obvious to me, but it didn’t seem to be.  I may have missed it (if we need an explanation other than my not being overly bright or my being careless) because I had gotten so focused on the distinction between spontaneity and receptivity, and the differences in their respective directions of fit, and in thinking of the categories as spontaneous and intuition as receptive, that it hadn’t occurred to me that intuition could itself embody both directions of fit.

I guess we could say that intuition itself has a spontaneity (call it “anticipation”) and a receptivity.  Its having a spontaneity is what makes pure mathematics possible (since pure mathematics constitutionally involves the spontaneity of intuition).  –The Copernican revolution reaches all the way into intuition.  Huh.  It seems I had thought of it as reaching only into judgment, categorically.  I mean, of course I knew that intuition was both pure and empirical, but I did not (fully) see that as already thematizing the synergy of spontaneity and receptivity.  –Duh.

*I’ve edited the terminology here from the initial post.  I had reversed the use of the standard terms.  Apologies.

9 responses

  1. “the spontaneity of intuition”

    Is this close to what Bergson went on about? Or is this something different from his idea of intuition?

  2. “It had never struck me (clearly) that Kant’s story about intuition makes it the case that pure intuition enjoys one direction of fit, mind-to-world, while empirical intuition enjoys another direction of fit, world-to-mind.”

    You seem to be reversing what Kant says in the KrV at B 124–5/A 92: “There are only two possible cases in which synthetic representation and its objects can come together, necessarily relate to each other, and, as it were, meet each other: Either if the object alone makes the representation possible, or if the representation alone makes the object possible. If it is the first, then this relation is only empirical, and the representation is never possible a priori” (etc.). When the object makes the representation possible, the representation is empirical; when the representation makes the object possible, the representation is a priori. I am not sure that Kant would accept it as intelligible to say that the world conforms to pure intuition (the object of pure intuition is, externally, space and, internally, time); but since pure intuition makes its object possible, surely the direction of fit in the case of pure intuition must be, in your terms, from world to intuition and not the other way around.

    • No, I didn’t reverse Kant, I reversed the standard terminology. My mistake. I was thinking in terms of mind ‘dictating’ to world (and calling that mind-to-world) or world ‘dictating’ to mind (world-to-mind). Sorry if the reversed terminology confused you (or anyone else). I’ve now changed it. (Kant might not like the standard terminology, but, appropriately reversed, it’s meaning is clear enough in relation to his view.)

  3. Oh, nuts: I slipped up in a crucial phrasing. Please delete the previous comment and post this in its stead:

    I can understand what you say in terms of “dictating” but not in terms of “direction of fit.” If Master dictates to Servant (cf. Intuition to World), then the only “direction of fit” that I can see runs from Servant to Master (World to Intuition). We ask whether what the Servant has done fits what the Master dictated, not the other way around. To say, when the intuition makes possible its object, that the direction of fit is from intuition to object (or world) seems to me not just to reverse Kant’s terms but to reverse the sense of your own words. At least, I can’t understand what you say otherwise.

      • I’m sorry if you had already revised the post at the time that I posted my last comment (I did not look), but I was referring to your original wording, in which you said that with pure intuition the direction of fit is from mind to world. I was saying that you should put the matter the other way around, and now you have done so.

  4. Spring comes quickly: overnight
    the plum tree blossoms,
    the warm air fills with bird calls.

    In the plowed dirt, someone has drawn a picture of the sun
    with rays coming out all around
    but because the background is dirt, the sun is black.
    There is no signature.

    Alas, very soon everything will disappear:
    the bird calls, the delicate blossoms. In the end,
    even the earth itself will follow the artist’s name into oblivion.

    Nevertheless, the artist intends
    a mood of celebration.

    How beautiful the blossoms are—emblems of the resilience of life.
    The birds approach eagerly.

    “Primavera” by Louise Glück

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