Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein: Transcendentalism, Idealism, Illusion [1st ed.] 9783030446338, 9783030446345

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Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein: Transcendentalism, Idealism, Illusion [1st ed.]
 9783030446338, 9783030446345

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xxi
Front Matter ....Pages 1-3
Wittgenstein on ‘Grammatical’ and ‘Metaphysical’ Propositions (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 5-18
The Question of Linguistic Idealism (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 19-30
Wittgenstein and What We Can Say (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 31-40
Language and Communication in Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 41-52
Transcendental Illusion in the First Antinomial Conflict (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 53-67
Kant’s Transcendental Idealism (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 69-85
Front Matter ....Pages 87-90
The Position of Problematic Idealism (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 91-97
Scepticism and Idealism in Descartes (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 99-110
Transcendental Proofs and Indubitability (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 111-120
The Subject in the Refutation of Idealism (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 121-139
Transcendental Realism and the Fourth A-Paralogism (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 141-151
Front Matter ....Pages 153-158
Solipsism in The Blue Book (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 159-173
Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 175-191
Idealism/Solipsism in the Investigations (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 193-207
On Certainty and Metaphysical Doubt (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 209-227
Front Matter ....Pages 229-231
Kant’s Second Analogy and the Schema of Causality (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 233-255
‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 257-274
Wittgenstein on Private Ostensive Definition (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 275-295
A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant? (Bernhard Ritter)....Pages 297-318
Back Matter ....Pages 319-346

Citation preview

Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein Transcendentalism, Idealism, Illusion Bernhard Ritter

Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein

“Many commentators have noticed parallels between Kant and Wittgenstein. But for the most part the comparisons have concentrated on Wittgenstein’s early work. Bernhard Ritter adopts a refreshingly novel approach by focusing on Wittgenstein’s middle and late period. He also breaks new ground by approaching the topic through an intriguing interpretative principle: reconstructing how Wittgenstein’s later philosophy could in principle have evolved out of Kant’s critical philosophy is the best way of understanding how they relate to each other. In the course of pursuing this programme, Ritter sheds new light on transcendental idealism, but also on the vexing notion of the ‘self ’ and its relation to the peculiarities of the first-person pronoun. His Kant scholarship exceeds that of most Wittgensteinian commentators on the relation, and he also makes very good use of the whole of Wittgenstein’s work, including hitherto neglected parts of the Nachlass. Essential reading for anyone interested in the relationship between two of the greatest Western philosophers, or in their rich legacy for contemporary epistemology, metaphysics and philosophy of mind.” – Hans-Johann Glock, Professor of Philosophy, University of Zurich, Switzerland “Kant’s and Wittgenstein’s arguments over the self – the ‘subjective’ vs. the ‘objective’ I; the need to go “beyond” appearances alone; the “self as subject” and the “self as object” – have been revisited for generations. Ritter provides a lucid and fascinating map of the affinities and contrasts between these two philosophers, showing us the limits of contemporary readings of each, and pressing analytic Kantianism forward. A book with lessons worth learning.” – Juliet Floyd, Professor of Philosophy, Boston University, USA

Bernhard Ritter

Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein Transcendentalism, Idealism, Illusion

Bernhard Ritter Institute of Philosophy University of Klagenfurt Klagenfurt, Austria

ISBN 978-3-030-44633-8 ISBN 978-3-030-44634-5 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


In 1972, Peter Hacker submitted an interpretation of Wittgenstein in his book Insight and Illusion: Wittgenstein on Philosophy and the Metaphysics of Experience, which formed part of a broader current in analytic philosophy. It is a book on Wittgenstein, not on Kant and Wittgenstein, but it is, as its original subtitle indicates, led by a concern with Kantianism. Hacker’s source of the term ‘metaphysics of experience’ is Peter Strawson’s book on Kant, The Bounds of Sense (1966), where the notion of a metaphysics of experience is opposed to the (‘revisionary’) metaphysics of transcendental idealism. Hacker used ‘metaphysics of experience’ as a title for his exploration of Kantian affinities he saw running through Wittgenstein’s entire philosophical work. This attempt does not appear in the second edition from 1986, which features a new subtitle, and a Wittgensteinian critique of Kant is offered instead. From Hacker’s early writings to his most recent publications on Kant and Wittgenstein, his understanding of Kant’s idealism, as of those of most analytic philosophers of his generation, has remained strongly influenced by Strawson. Hacker combines the phenomenalism inherent to this reading with a Cartesian interpretation of Kant’s notion of perception and original selfconsciousness, or apperception. Only a few commentators would support such a line of interpretation today, but this need not speak decisively against Hacker’s reading. The greatest Kant interpreters proposed interpretations which hardly convinced anybody. What would be a deficiency, v



in any interpretation with a claim to comprehensiveness, would be to allow no room for an explanation of this fact. Such an approach would fail to do justice to the amount of indecisiveness, ambiguity and inconsistency that can rightly be taken to define the experience of reading Kant. These tensions allow different solutions, while not all tensions can be resolved at the same time. What can be formulated as criticism can often be recast as a problem that animates Kant’s thought from within. The interpretation of Kant given centre stage here differs substantially from a Strawsonian one, and since the corresponding exegetical discussions are dispersed over several chapters, I wish to begin with a brief outline of this interpretation and how it will be related to Wittgenstein’s post-Tractarian philosophy. The first question to be considered is whether the fundamental arguments of the Critique of Pure Reason can be separated from the doctrine of transcendental idealism. Strawson thought that transcendental idealism is an abstruse metaphysical doctrine, from which Kant’s (‘descriptive’) metaphysics of experience can and should be separated. In The Bounds of Sense, he discusses the doctrine not before part III (cf. Strawson 1966: 187–197). On a more exegetical approach, there can hardly be a doubt concerning Kant’s view that most of his transcendental proofs rely on transcendental idealism; that is, he could not possibly view them as successful proofs without this doctrine. The second question is what this ‘transcendental idealism’ is. Strawson opted for a ‘two-worlds’ interpretation of Kant’s distinction between ‘appearances’ and ‘things in themselves’, as this type of interpretation is described since Gerold Prauss introduced the notion of a Zweiweltentheorie (cf. Prauss 1971: 22 n. 38). On this type of interpretation, empirical objects are representations in the mind whose noumenal causes exist in an unknowable realm of reality. One might protest, as John McDowell does, that such a reading of Strawson is ‘absurd’, as Strawson precisely attempts to separate Kant’s descriptive metaphysics from the doctrine of transcendental idealism (cf. McDowell 1996: 43, n. 18). The absurdity is only apparent. Strawson thinks that Kant’s idealism is closer to Berkeley’s than is acknowledged by the author of the Critique, without attempting to integrate this element into his reconstruction of Kant’s metaphysics of experience (cf. Strawson 1966: 22, 193). What McDowell takes to be central to Strawson’s interpretation is the idea that ‘the possibility



of understanding experiences … as glimpses of an objective reality is interdependent with the subject’s being able to ascribe experiences to herself ’ (McDowell 1996: 99; cf. 54 n. 9). But this is not what Kant scholars mean when they rightly attribute an interpretation of Kant’s transcendental idealism to Strawson that reduces the physical world to perceptions and assumes a supersensible sphere of reality by which they are caused.1 To this interpretation, it is now common to oppose one that takes appearances and things in themselves to be two aspects of one and the same thing. This interpretation branches into a metaphysical and an epistemological variant, which latter is central for the argument of this study. Some commentators have found the epistemological conception of transcendental idealism too bland, deflationary, and even barely recognizable as a form of idealism. By themselves, however, such comments do not speak crucially against the epistemological reading, as there may in fact be a drift towards such deflationism in Kant. As I shall attempt to show, there are even good reasons to believe that it is interpretively not an option but a necessity. The third question is how strong Kant intended the conclusions of his transcendental proofs to be. A distinction between ‘strong’ and ‘modest’ is often aligned with a contrast between ‘progressive’ and ‘regressive’ transcendental arguments, but these distinctions are more likely to yield a cross-classification. A regressive transcendental argument is modest in that it aims to deliver less from more; it assumes a cognitive achievement as actual, states a necessary condition of that achievement and derives the validity of the condition. A regressive argument may also be supplemented with an inference from the way in which we must think of experiential objects to the objects themselves. Conversely, a progressive transcendental argument may be modest in that it does not involve such a step. At the opposite, ‘strong’, end of the spectrum of Kant’s transcendental proofs is the Transcendental Deduction. In this proof, Kant invokes the pure concepts of the understanding, or categories, as rules of synthesis to draw

1 This sentence summarizes Strawson’s statement of his interpretation of Kant’s idealism (cf. Strawson 1966: 236–238).



a conclusion about possible experience and experiential objects. This doctrine is the most controversial part of his project. As will be seen, there is something irreducibly, and problematically, hypothetical about Kant’s synthesis of perceptions, which is irreconcilable with Wittgensteinianism. ‘Transcendentalism’, as it is used here, is taken ‘generically’ as ‘a name for the philosophies that are antithetical to empiricism’ and to transcendent metaphysics, as John Dewey once put it (Dewey 1913: 622). The generic name is meant to cover all philosophies that are modeled more or less closely on Kant’s revised metaphysical project. This is a project that aims at the creation of a comprehensive cartography of human cognition and the determination of what is and what is not a legitimate use of metaphysical concepts. The subject of transcendental inquiry turns back to its relation to objects, and thereby to itself, shunning both empiricist limitedness and rationalist excesses. This latter characterization can also be taken to apply to Wittgenstein. His approach, however, unlike those of Kant and Strawson, renounces any foundational aspirations and pursues no positive conception of metaphysics. It will be argued here that his relation to Kantian apriorist transcendentalism can, to a large extent, be described in terms of the divided fate of the idea of ‘conditions of possibility’. In attempting to maintain their apriority, we end up with making them into defining, or analytical, ‘conditions’. Seeking on the other hand to secure their detachability from the conditioned forces us to resort to a posteriori truisms as the only plausible candidates left. The proud name of an analytic of the pure understanding either gives way to the more modest one of a mere phenomenology of our understanding of concepts and other forms of representation, or ends up with a diminuitive form of transcendentalism centered on things that stand fast for us, which are inextricable from the contingencies of human life. ∗

What will be attempted here is a coherent interpretation not of individual texts but of the whole corpus of primary texts to be indicated below. Whatever general claims will be made are borne out by an exemplary reading of a selection of central texts. No attempt has been made here to incorporate all the relevant literature. In fact, not even all publications in



the languages known to me that deal with both philosophers are included. I selected those commentators for discussion with whom I share enough common ground to make agreement or disagreement meaningful, as well as those whom I believe to be wrong in instructive, or important, ways. Throughout this study, I shall talk of ‘early’, ‘middle’, and ‘late’ Wittgenstein. By ‘middle’ Wittgenstein I mean his writings from 1929 to summer 1936. The first date marks Wittgenstein’s return to Cambridge, and the second roughly coincides with the beginning of his work on the Philosophical Investigations, in the form in which they were eventually published. These designations are not meant to imply any strong views on the independence of Wittgenstein’s late from his early writings. As will be seen, the discussion is forced back on several occasions to his earlier writings, which is a sure sign of their intimate connection. The designations pay tribute to the works by Wittgenstein that really are works, allowing some grey area in between to detach the interpretation of the middle period from the potentially oppressive idea of the latter’s being a mere preparatory stage of the Investigations. What I take to be characteristic of the middle period is that no single writing can be taken as representative of it, in the way the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is representative of the early period and the Philosophical Investigations of much of what he wrote from autumn 1936 until his death in 1951. What was originally referred to as ‘Part II’ of that work, Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment, is rightly seen as having a different focus, as is the case with the notes posthumously published under the title of On Certainty; but there is little justification for viewing them as defining a third period by supposedly breaking new thematic ground, as has perhaps become a little easier to appreciate with the recent publication of Wittgenstein’s Whewell’s Court Lectures. The period from summer 1936 to April 1951 will be referred to as ‘late’, and the middle together with the late period as ‘post-Tractarian’. Similarly, the same consideration won’t be given to all of Kant’s theoretical writings. The focus will be on the period from around the second edition of the first Critique (1787) to what he wrote until the mid-1790s on the topics under consideration, notably on the problem of empirical idealism. Kant’s last, unfinished work, Opus postumum, will also be occasionally referenced and quoted, but I readily admit that this



is done mainly strategically to highlight certain lines of thought that are at work in his earlier writings. These writings, from the 1780s to the mid1790s, are what the interpretations given here should be assessed against. It will, at first, be tempting to dismiss the types of connections that will be noted in the following as superficial by appealing to the idea that Kant and Wittgenstein worked within different philosophical paradigms. This suggests the picture of a rectangle with a dividing line down the middle, showing Wittgenstein on one side and Kant on the other. I will be emphasizing ideas in Kant and Wittgenstein that cut across such dividing lines. This will be done not with the prospect of an unprecedented coalescence of their approaches but with the aim of drawing a more accurate line, corresponding to a change in what is perceived as relevant for their relationship. The ultimate aim, however, is not merely that of identifying similarities and dissimilarities between Kant and Wittgenstein. The final stage, ideally, is the replacement of the simple dividing line by a relation that is capable of elucidating something. If Kantian transcendentalism is not an option for Wittgenstein, there must be a reason why this should be so. I suggest that their relationship is better viewed on the model of a development of transcendental forms of philosophizing towards the suspension of their original motivation, rather than simply in terms of similarities and differences between their reasoning or between the views they upheld. To know how Wittgenstein’s philosophy could in principle have developed out of Kantianism is to know how they relate to each other. Naturally, it won’t be possible to link up all features of their respective philosophies, not even all of the most salient ones, to suggest something like a ‘development’, as there are also strong thematic discontinuities in what Kant and Wittgenstein were interested in. The idea of a development is here invoked purely heuristically as a means of interpretation; no attempt will be made to establish elements of an actual historical process, or a thesis about a purported direct influence of Kant on Wittgenstein.


The bulk of this study was written between November 2010 and February 2015, when I was working on the edition of Wittgenstein’s Whewell’s Court Lectures. A first version was completed while holding a Univ.Ass. position at the University of Klagenfurt. My acknowledgements should begin with Ursula Renz. Her very detailed comments provided me with many indications as to how my manuscript could be clarified with regard to both details and overall conception. I also wish to thank Katia Saporiti, whose criticism of my take on Descartes resulted in additional reading and the most substantial revisions that I have undertaken between March and October 2018. An earlier version of some materials used in Part II appeared in a book-colloquium paper on Quassim Cassam’s The Possibility of Knowledge, published in 2009. A shorter version of chapter 10 was presented on 19 September 2015 at the First Carinthian Workshop on Topics from Early Modern Philosophy to Kant, held in Klagenfurt. I particularly benefited from comments by Eric Watkins. Most of chapter 16 was presented on 16 December 2016 at the Workshop ‘Causality and Necessity – Problems in the Philosophy of Science’ at the Vienna University of Economics. I wish to thank the organizer Gabriele M. Mras as well as Paul Weingartner for their comments. Chapter 18 on private ostensive definition originated from a paper on Joachim Schulte’s Oxford Handbook chapter on ‘Privacy’, presented on 12 April 2011 also xi



at the Vienna University of Economics. Zachary Gartenberg read and corrected the manuscript in at least two versions and helped to improve it at different levels. I would also like to acknowledge the very useful advice of an anonymous reviewer for Palgrave Macmillan and the thoughtful assistance of Brendan George and Lauriane Piette in preparing the manuscript for publication. Cambridge University Press kindly granted me the permission to quote from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1998) and John Wiley & Sons from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (2009). Gabriele M. Mras probably had the deepest influence on the basic themes of this study, especially as they appear in Part IV. What I made of the influence is, of course, a different matter, which means that the ideas expressed here and the choice of material to develop them are entirely my own, as are all mistakes that might remain. Klagenfurt, Austria

Bernhard Ritter


Part I Mirages of Metaphysical Language 1

Wittgenstein on ‘Grammatical’ and ‘Metaphysical’ Propositions


2 The Question of Linguistic Idealism


3 Wittgenstein and What We Can Say


4 Language and Communication in Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy


5 Transcendental Illusion in the First Antinomial Conflict


6 Kant’s Transcendental Idealism


Part II Kant’s Argument Against Problematic Idealism 7 The Position of Problematic Idealism


8 Scepticism and Idealism in Descartes


9 Transcendental Proofs and Indubitability

111 xiii



10 The Subject in the Refutation of Idealism




Transcendental Realism and the Fourth A-Paralogism

Part III Wittgenstein: Idealism, Solipsism, and Scepticism 12 Solipsism in The Blue Book


13 Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited


14 Idealism/Solipsism in the Investigations


15 On Certainty and Metaphysical Doubt


Part IV Limits of Transcendentalism 16 Kant’s Second Analogy and the Schema of Causality


17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction


18 Wittgenstein on Private Ostensive Definition


19 A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant?







1. Works by Immanuel Kant A

B Ak.

Ak. XI Ak. XV Ak. XVI Ak. XVII

1 Where

Kritik der reinen Vernunft. Hartknoch, Riga, 1781. Partly reprinted in Ak. IV: 1–252. De Gruyter, 1968. Edited and translated as Critique of Pure Reason by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 1998. Page references are to the 1781 and the 1787 editions. Kritik der reinen Vernunft. Hartknoch, Riga, 1787. Reprinted as Ak. III, De Gruyter, 1968. Gesammelte Schriften. Edited by the Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften and the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, 1900–1917: Georg Reimer, Berlin; since 1922: De Gruyter, Berlin, etc. Page references to Kant’s works are to this edition, except where otherwise indicated. Briefwechsel 1747–1788. De Gruyter, 1922.1 Anthropologie: Erste Hälfte. De Gruyter, 1923. Logik. De Gruyter, 1924. Metaphysik: Erster Teil. De Gruyter, 1926. Partly translated in Notes and Fragments by Paul Guyer (ed.), Curtis Bowman, and Frederick Rauscher. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 2005.

no translation is specified, translations are my own, or mere reference to a title is given.



Ak. XVIII Anfangsgr.






Len. I


Metaphysik: Zweiter Teil. De Gruyter, 1928. Partly translated in Notes and Fragments. Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaften. In Ak. IV: 465–565. De Gruyter, 1968. Translated in Theoretical Philosophy after 1781 as Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science by Michael Friedman, edited by Henry Allison and Peter Heath. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 2002. Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht. In Ak. VII: 117–333. De Gruyter, 1968. Translated in Anthropology, History, and Education as Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View by Robert B. Louden, edited by Günter Zöller and Robert B. Louden. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 2007. ‘Über eine Entdeckung nach der alle neue Kritik der reinen Vernunft durch eine ältere entbehrlich gemacht werden soll.’ In Ak. VIII: 185–251. De Gruyter, 1968. Translated in Theoretical Philosophy after 1781 as ‘On a Discovery Whereby Any New Critique of Pure Reason Is To Be Made Superfluous By an Older One’ by Henry Allison (ed.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 2002. ‘Welches sind die wirklichen Fortschritte, die die Metaphysik seit Leibnizens und Wolffs Zeiten in Deutschland gemacht hat?’ In Ak. XX: 253–351. De Gruyter, 1942. Translated in Theoretical Philosophy after 1781 as ‘What Real Progress Has Metaphysics Made in Germany Since the Time of Leibniz and Wolff?’ by Peter Heath. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 2002. Kritik der Urtheilskraft. In Ak. V: 165–485. De Gruyter, 1968. Translated as Critique of the Power of Judgement by Paul Guyer (ed.), and Eric Matthews. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 2000. Kritik der praktischen Vernunft. In Ak. V: 1–163. De Gruyter, 1968. Translated in Practical Philosophy as Critique of Practical Reason by Mary J. Gregor (ed.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 1996. ‘Loses Blatt Leningrad I: Vom inneren Sinne.’ Edited by Reinhard Brandt and Werner Stark. Neue Autographen und Dokumente zu Kants Leben, Schriften und Vorlesungen. Kant-Forschungen Vol. 1, Felix Meiner, Hamburg, 1987, 18–21. Transl. as ‘A New Fragment of Immanuel Kant: “On Inner Sense” ’ by Hoke Robinson in



International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. XXIX, No. 3, 1989, 249– 261. Page references to this edition. MdS Metaphysik der Sitten. In Ak. VI: 203–491. De Gruyter, 1968. Translated in Practical Philosophy as The Metaphysics of Morals by Mary J. Gregor (ed.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 1996. Op. post. I Opus postumum: Erste Hälfte. Ak. XXI. De Gruyter, 1936. Translated as Opus postumum by Eckart Förster (ed.) and Michael Rosen. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 1993. Op. post. II Opus postumum: Zweite Hälfte. Ak. XXII. De Gruyter, 1938. Translated as Opus postumum. Prol. Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik, die als Wissenschaft wird auftreten können. In Ak. IV: 253–383. De Gruyter, 1968. Translated in Theoretical Philosophy after 1781 as Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science by Gary Hatfield. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 2002.

2. Lectures by Immanuel Kant HL




‘Logik Hechsel.’ In Tillman Pinder (ed.). Unveröffentlichte Nachschriften II: Logik Hechsel; Warschauer Logik. Kant-Forschungen Vol. 9. Felix Meiner, Hamburg, 1998, 269–500. Partly translated in Lectures on Logic as ‘The Hechsel Logic’ by J. Michael Young (ed.). Cambridge University Press, 1992, 381–423. Immanuel Kant’s Logik: Ein Handbuch zu Vorlesungen. In Ak. IX: 1– 150. De Gruyter, 19682 (1923). Translated in Lectures on Logic as ‘The Jäsche Logic’, 521–640. ‘Logik Pölitz.’ In Vorlesungen über Logik, Zweite Hälfte. Ak. XXIV: 497–602. De Gruyter, 1966. ‘Wiener Logik.’ In Vorlesungen über Logik, Zweite Hälfte. Ak. XXIV: 785–940. De Gruyter, 1966. Translated in Lectures on Logic as ‘The Vienna Logic’, 251–377. ‘Warschauer Logik.’ In Unveröffentlichte Nachschriften II: Logik Hechsel; Warschauer Logik, 503–660.



3. Works by Ludwig Wittgenstein BB









The Blue and Brown Books: Preliminary Studies for the “Philosophical Investigations”. Blackwell Publishing, Malden (MA), Oxford, Carlton (AUS), 19582 (1969). The Big Typescript: TS 213. German-English scholar’s edition. Edited and translated by C. Grant Luckhardt and Maximilian A. E. Aue. Blackwell, Malden (MA), etc., 2005. Philosophische Untersuchungen: Kritisch-genetische Edition. Edited by Joachim Schulte. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a/M, 2001. Letzte Schriften über die Philosophie der Psychologie / Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology; Vol. 1. Edited by G. H. von Wright and Heikki Nyman, translated by C. Grant Luckhardt, and Maximilian A. E. Aue. Blackwell, Oxford, 1982. Letzte Schriften über die Philosophie der Psychologie / Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology; Vol. 2. Edited and translated by C. Grant Luckhardt and Maximilian A. E. Aue. Blackwell, Cambridge (MA), 1992. Notebooks, 1914–1916. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright. Blackwell, Oxford, 19792 (1961). In German: Tagebücher 1914–1916. In Werkausgabe; Vol. 1. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a/M, 19952 (1984), 87–187. ‘Notes for Lectures on “Private Experience” and “Sense Data”.’ In The Philosophical Review, Vol. 77, 1968, 275–320. Page references are to the expanded version in PO: 200–288, edited by David G. Stern. Über Gewissheit / On Certainty. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright, translated by Denis Paul and G. E. M. Anscombe. Blackwell, Malden (MA), Oxford, Carlton (AUS), 19742 (1969). Philosophical Grammar. Edited by Rush Rhees, translated by Anthony Kenny. Blackwell, Malden (MA), etc., 19802 (1974). In German: Werkausgabe; Vol. 4: Philosophische Grammatik. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a/M, 1989. Philosophische Untersuchungen / Philosophical Investigations. Translated by G. E. M. Anscombe, edited and translated by P. M. S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester (UK), 20094 (1953).












Klagge, James C. and Alfred Nordmann (eds.). Philosophical Occasions 1912–1951. Hackett Publishing, Indianapolis and Cambridge, 1993. Philosophie der Psychologie – ein Fragment / Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment. In PI: 182–243, also referred to as ‘PI II’. Philosophical Remarks. Edited by Rush Rhees, translated by Raymond Hargreaves and Roger White. Blackwell, Oxford, 19752 (1964). In German: Werkausgabe; Vol. 2: Philosophische Bemerkungen. Edited by Rush Rhees. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a/M, 1989. Bemerkungen über Farben / Remarks on Colour. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe, translated by Linda L. McAlister and Margarete Schättle. Blackwell, Oxford, 1979. Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe, G. H. von Wright, and Rush Rhees, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. Blackwell, Oxford, 19783 (1956). In German: Werkausgabe; Vol. 6: Bemerkungen über die Grundlagen der Mathematik. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a/M, 1989. Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie / Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology; Vol. 1. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. Blackwell, Oxford, 1980. Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie / Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology; Vol. 2. Edited by G. H. von Wright and Heikki Nyman, translated by C. Grant Luckhardt and Maximilian A. E. Aue. Blackwell, Oxford, 1980. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung / Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Edited and translated by David Pears and Brian F. McGuinness. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1961 (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co, 1922). Wittgenstein’s Nachlass: The Bergen Electronic Edition. Oxford University Press, London, New York, 2001. Items from Wittgenstein’s Nachlass are referenced by their von Wright numbers: ‘1—’ for manuscripts, ‘2—’ for typescripts, and ‘3—’ for dictations. Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle: Conversations Recorded by Friedrich Waismann. Translated by Brian F. McGuinness (ed.) and Joachim Schulte. Blackwell, Oxford, 1979. In German: Werkausgabe; Vol. 2: Ludwig Wittgenstein und der Wiener Kreis: Gespräche,




aufgezeichnet von Friedrich Waismann. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a/M, 1989. Zettel. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. Blackwell, Oxford, 19812 (1967).

4. Lectures by Ludwig Wittgenstein AWL






Wittgenstein’s Lectures, Cambridge 1932–1935, From the Notes of Alice Ambrose and Margaret Macdonald. Edited by Alice Ambrose. Blackwell, Oxford, 1979. Lectures on Philosophical Psychology, Cambridge 1946–1947: Notes by P. T. Geach, K. J. Shah, A. C. Jackson. Edited by P. T. Geach. Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hertfordshire, 1988. Wittgenstein’s Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics, Cambridge, 1939: From the Notes of R. G. Bosenquet, Norman Malcolm, Rush Rhees, and Yorick Smythies. Edited by Cora Diamond. Harvester Press, Hassocks, Sussex, 1976. ‘The Language of Sense Data and Private Experience: Notes Taken by Rush Rhees of Wittgenstein’s Lectures, 1936.’ In PO: 290–367. Wittgenstein’s Lectures, Cambridge, 1930–1932, From the Notes of John King and Desmond Lee. Edited by Desmond Lee. Blackwell, Oxford, 1980. Moore, G. E. “Wittgenstein’s Lectures in 1930–33.” In PO: 45–114. Wittgenstein: Lectures, Cambridge, 1930–1933. From the Notes of G. E. Moore. Edited by David G. Stern, Brian Rogers, and Gabriel Citron. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2016. Wittgenstein’s Whewell’s Court Lectures, Cambridge, 1938–1941: From the Notes by Yorick Smythies. Edited by Volker A. Munz and Bernhard Ritter. Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.

5. Works by Other Authors AT V


Descartes, René. Correspondance: Mai 1647 – Février 1650. Œuvres; Vol. V. Edited by Charles Adam, and Paul Tannery. J. Vrin, Paris, 1996. Discours de la méthode & Essais. Œuvres; Vol. VI. Edited by Charles Adam and Paul Tannery. J. Vrin, Paris, 1996. Translated by Robert



Stoothoff as Discourse and Essays. In The Philosophical Writings of Descartes; Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 1985, 111–175. AT VII —–. Meditationes de prima philosophia. Œuvres; Vol. VII. Edited by Charles Adam and Paul Tannery. J. Vrin, Paris, 1996. Translated by John Cottingham as Meditations on First Philosophy. In The Philosophical Writings of Descartes; Vol. 2. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 1984, 1–397. AT VIII-1 —–. Principia Philosophiae. Œuvres; Vol. VIII-1. Edited by Charles Adam and Paul Tannery. J. Vrin, Paris, 1996. Partially translated by John Cottingham as Principles of Philosophy. In The Philosophical Writings of Descartes; Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 1985, 179–291. AT VIII-2 —–. ‘Notae in Programma quoddam, sub finem Anni 1647 in Belgio editum, cum hoc Titulo: Explicatio Mentis humanae, sive Animae rationalis, ubi explicatur quid sit, & quid esse possit.’ In Œuvres; Vol. VIII-2. Edited by Charles Adam and Paul Tannery. J. Vrin, Paris, 1996, 341–369. Translated by Dugald Murdoch as ‘Comments on a Certain Broadsheet’. In The Philosophical Writings of Descartes; Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, etc., 1985, 294–311. AT IX-1 —–. Méditations touchant la première philosophie. Œuvres; Vol. IX-1. Edited by Charles Adam and Paul Tannery. J. Vrin, Paris, 1996. CP 2 Peirce, Charles S. (CP 2.619–644). ‘Deduction, Induction, and Hypothesis.’ In Collected Papers; Vol. 2. The Belknap Press, Cambridge (MA), 19743 (1931). CP 5 —– (CP 5.14–212). Lectures on Pragmatism. In Collected Papers; Vol. 5. The Belknap Press, Cambridge (MA), 19744 (1934). PHK Berkeley, George. A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Edited by A. A. Luce and T. E. Jessop. The Works of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne; Vol. 2. Thomas Nelson, London, etc., 1949, 1–113. T Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by Lewis A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford University Press, 19782 (1888). WWV I Schopenhauer, Arthur. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung; Vol. I. Brockhaus, Wiesbaden, 1966.

Part I Mirages of Metaphysical Language

Introduction A study of the present type and concern will have to introduce some basic concepts pertaining to the philosophers it sets out to relate to one another. This will be done, on the one hand, with an eye to certain obstacles that might be seen as preventing the thoughts of Kant and Wittgenstein to make proper contact; and on the other, to certain questionable attempts of approaching them too closely, or in the wrong way, to each other. Part I has three thematic emphases: the role of language in Kant and Wittgenstein; their conceptions of philosophical illusion; and the question of whether, or in what sense, they can or cannot be viewed as transcendental idealists. There will be three chapters each. The first chapter is concerned with introducing some concepts and ideas that will reappear in several of the later chapters. The notion of a grammatical proposition, for one thing, is introduced in preparation of a point that will be made in the second, which addresses the question of whether there might be a form of transcendental idealism present in Wittgenstein’s post-Tractarian writings. A viable account of grammatical propositions should cast doubt on any proposal that toys with the idea that they could play the role of transcendental conditions. As a conse-



Mirages of Metaphysical Language

quence, they cannot be exploited in reconstructions, or constructions, of a linguistic form of transcendental idealism in Wittgenstein. Some commentators have thought themselves able to find such idealism even in Wittgenstein’s later writings. The main defect of this proposal, it will be argued in the second chapter, is that the extant literature almost uniformly fails to answer even the most basic questions as to what a linguistic form of transcendental idealism is supposed to be, let alone one that could be plausibly attributed to the later Wittgenstein. The fact that this literature has paid scant attention to the debate about Kant’s idealism has not helped either. I shall eventually draw a different conclusion regarding a conception of transcendental idealism that receives determination by its opposite, transcendental realism. This will happen only at the end of this study with the benefit of hindsight (cf. chapter 19). The third chapter is a methodological supplement to the first two. It examines the nature of Wittgenstein’s appeal to what we can say and in what sense his philosophy is hostile to theorizing. The fourth chapter, the first on Kant, is preparatory in that it attempts to clear away what appears to be another obstacle to any substantial way of relating Kant and Wittgenstein to each other. Kant and Wittgenstein are often viewed as working within different philosophical paradigms. This is believed to come to the fore in their respective attitudes towards language. It is true that there is no in-depth examination of the relation of thought and language in the first Critique. Kant’s respective views, however, can be gleaned from his logic lectures from the early 1780s, which makes the extent to which they are operative in the Critique more easily discernible. The fifth chapter deals with Kant’s conception of transcendental illusion in the context of the first antinomial conflict. Kant’s respective criticism of dogmatic metaphysics emerges to be essentially directed against the concepts underlying the first antinomial conflict, as he takes the metaphysician to define them. The question is how to interpret this result. Kant thinks that the antinomial conflicts of rational cosmology yield an indirect argument for transcendental idealism. Some remarks by Wittgenstein on the same problem suggest that he thinks that the outcome has no metaphysically interesting implications. Any such conclusion, however, is premature without having further examined the nature of Kant’s transcendental idealism.


Mirages of Metaphysical Language


This happens in the concluding chapter of Part I. The two interpretations that are currently considered to be the most promising candidates will be singled out for discussion. My aim is to expose, as clearly and succinctly as possible, what I take to be irremediable weaknesses in one of them. According to this interpretation, transcendental idealism turns on a distinction between ‘appearances’ and ‘things in themselves’ that is, after all, metaphysical. If this interpretation were to be as good as its supporters believe, there would be nothing but disparity in Kant’s and Wittgenstein’s philosophical outlooks and thus probably no narrative worth telling about their relationship.

1 Wittgenstein on ‘Grammatical’ and ‘Metaphysical’ Propositions

A main source of philosophical puzzlement, according to Wittgenstein, is that we do not command a clear view of the ways in which we use language: ‘A main source of our failure to understand is that we don’t have an overview of the use of our words. – Our grammar is deficient in surveyability.’ (PI §122) This is not to say that language, as such, is in need of greater surveyability. Wittgenstein’s grammatical reminders are directed at those who attempt to move around reflectively in language, people in philosophy, for the most part. He reacts to what struck him as peculiar in what philosophers say. They say things that in his view are born of a misconception about philosophical discourse itself. He approaches philosophical problems in the way he does after having found that he had said such things himself. Wittgenstein is, in this respect, very much a philosopher of philosophy, struck by what philosophers say and what may tempt them to say it. One expression of this misconception is the ‘metaphysical use of words’, or the use of ‘metaphysical propositions’, as he calls it (cf. PG: 128, 130, BB: 55, PI §58b). In Wittgenstein, metaphysical propositions are distinguished from both grammatical and empirical propositions. Their relation is best approached with the help of a remark on the third group, empirical propositions:

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_1



B. Ritter

[P]ropositions turn out to be even more like yardsticks than I previously believed. The fact that one measurement is right automatically excludes all others. I say automatically: just as all the graduation marks are on one rod, the propositions corresponding to the graduation marks similarly belong together, and we can’t measure with one of them without simultaneously measuring with all the others. – It isn’t a proposition which I put against reality as a yardstick, it’s a system of propositions. (PR: 109f.)

Any proposition belonging to the system represents a way things may or may not be with regard to colour, which is their assertible content (cf. Hanks 2014: 2). If any of these propositions is true, it is contingently true (cf. WVC: 77, LWL: 93). If any of them is false, then not only is its negation true, but there will also be something assertible by a positive proposition of the same system that is true.1 Propositions like ‘Black and white cannot be simultaneously in the same place’, in contrast, represent nothing that may or may not be the case. They lack assertible content. In uttering them, one can only be talking of the yardstick, not making an application of it, according to Wittgenstein. These are what he calls ‘grammatical propositions’: statements about our way of representing how things are, rather than about how things are. His view is not that the negation of a grammatical proposition expresses a contradiction and its affirmation a necessary truth. According to Wittgenstein, we should rather say that if the component words are taken to mean what they actually mean, no possible fact corresponds to either. This might lead one to interpret Wittgenstein as holding that all metaphysical propositions are nonsensical. A passage from a 1934–35 lecture, which says that ‘it is very important to see that philosophy always turns upon nonsensical questions’, might suggest such a view (AWL: 106, cf. 23). Accordingly, a ‘metaphysical use’ of language would be a deviant way of using a grammatical proposition that is not recognized as such. In this way, there would be an intimate connection between grammatical propositions and metaphysical uses. However, the view that

1 In this respect, the view expressed in the quotation differs from Wittgenstein’s earlier understanding of propositions (cf. Stock 1985: 474–476).

1 Wittgenstein on ‘Grammatical’ and ‘Metaphysical’ Propositions


all metaphysical propositions are nonsensical is difficult to reconcile with several of Wittgenstein’s later remarks, one of which follows here:2 Don’t we understand it, when Strachey makes surmises about what Queen Victoria may have seen in her mind’s eye just before her death? Of course – but didn’t people also understand the question how many souls there was room for on the point of a needle? That is to say: the question whether one understands this does not help us here; we must ask what we can do with such a sentence. – That we use the sentence is clear; how we use it is the question. (RPP I §366 = vW 131: 187f., 3 September 1946.)

Wittgenstein concedes here that we have some understanding of this kind of proposition, though it lacks a clear relation to criteria for something’s being so. Surmises about Queen Victoria’s dying thoughts are in this respect like sceptical hypotheses, which are ‘metaphysical’ for Wittgenstein (cf. PG: 136). If these hypotheses are problematic in a way that affects their sceptical force, this will have to derive from their lack of connection with ordinary factual claims and ordinary ways to settle them. This suggestion will be examined later on (cf. chapter 15). There are two further difficulties with the view under consideration that I only wish to mention briefly. First, it may be tolerably clear what Wittgenstein means by a ‘metaphysical proposition’ in some preferred contexts, but he hardly says enough to support a classification for any philosophical proposition one may be interested in. To assert that all, and not only some, metaphysical propositions are nonsensical assumes a more determinate notion than is likely to exist in Wittgenstein. Second, language allows for countless ways in which the use of a word may be ‘projected’ into new contexts (cf. Cavell 1979: 165–204). It is not possible to define what makes sense in terms of ordinary usage and then reject ‘all’ metaphysical uses as nonsensical that fail to correspond to any of them. We do not know what ordinary usage is in a way that would allow us to do that (cf. chapter 3).

2 Cf.

PI §348, GWL: 32f., 152, 274, WCL: 188, 191–199.


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To see what the relation between grammatical and metaphysical proposition might be, we must pay proper attention to details. It is not always a difference that can be detected in the linguistic context of the sentence, supposing there is enough of it. A different accentuation may suffice to change a metaphysical proposition into a grammatical one, or the other way around. This will become clearer with an example: ‘The proposition, “There is nothing behind the utterance of a sensation”, is a grammatical one – it does not say that we feel nothing.’ (vW 124: 6, 7 June, 1946, transl. B. R.) Wittgenstein seems to be saying something obviously false. The sentence says that everything except the human utterance of a sensation is a fiction, which, to all appearance, is a metaphysical statement. This is puzzling, and is presumably meant to be. It is difficult to see in what way ‘There is nothing behind the utterance of a sensation’ could be a grammatical statement. In view of Wittgenstein’s notion of ‘grammar’, it can be expected that if it turns out to be grammatical, it will be registering the absence of a conceptual link, the lack of a possibility to play, or to extend, the language-game of sensation. I wish to add to the stock of examples with a further quotation that is intimately connected with the first one: ‘A memory is, surely, an inner process’ is a grammatical remark; it really says that the language-game begins with the utterance [Ausdruck] of memory. It is true that this proposition seems to justify that we make an assumption about the inner process of a person. – But we can say: because memory is an inner process, an assumption about a memory process makes no sense if it is not an assumption about the utterance of these processes. (vW 120: 67v–68r, 14 February, 1938, transl. B. R.; cf. PI §290)

Wittgenstein again seems to be saying something obviously false. The sentence in quotation marks does not say that the language-game with memories begins with the utterance of a memory. It claims to state a truth about the nature of memory. Wittgenstein insists that the sentence should be viewed as a grammatical remark on ‘memory’. In this second remark he specifies how this is to be understood. He says that any assumption about memory should be taken, not as an assumption about something behind

1 Wittgenstein on ‘Grammatical’ and ‘Metaphysical’ Propositions


a person’s behaviour of remembering something, but as an assumption about memory utterances; this is also how the former remark is to be read. These manuscript quotations show how elusive the identity conditions are for metaphysical and grammatical propositions. If I had begun this discussion with two lists, the example ‘A memory is, surely, an inner process’ would have had to feature in both the ‘grammatical’ and ‘metaphysical’ lists. The point of making such lists could only have been to show how pointless they are. In reaction, one might prefer instead to talk of ‘grammatical’ and ‘metaphysical uses’, thus running the risk of failing at the opposite end. There are not first sentences and then uses which have a life of their own. Not every sentence can be used in both ways, grammatically and metaphysically. A grammatical proposition, though it does not put the words it clarifies into inverted commas and does not explicitly talk of their use, characterizes the grammar of the terms just as a grammatical rule does. I follow Debra Aidun in calling expressions like ‘There is nothing behind the utterance of a sensation’, grammatical propositions, and expressions like ‘ “Sensation” is not used for anything behind utterance behaviour’ grammatical rules (cf. Aidun 1981: 144).3 If an expression of the first kind is used as a grammatical proposition, then it can be explained by rephrasing it as a grammatical rule. In the following quotation from The Blue Book, Wittgenstein first identifies an utterance as a grammatical proposition (or ‘statement’) and then explains it by rephrasing it as a grammatical rule. This kind of example will occupy us for most of the remainder of this chapter: It is similar when we ask, “Has this room a length?”, and someone answers: “Of course it has”. He might have answered, “Don’t ask nonsense”. On the other hand “The room has length” can be used as a grammatical statement. It then says that a sentence of the form “The room is —— feet long” makes sense. (BB: 30)

There is something peculiar to the grammatical proposition ‘A room has length’ which is not shared by all grammatical propositions. It has 3 Using

Carnapian terminology, Baker and Hacker call this the ‘formal metalinguistic mode’ and the ‘material mode’ of grammatical propositions (Baker & Hacker 2005: 291).


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often been remarked that to have a length, a colour, or a shape, are not properties over and above the possession of a particular length, a particular colour, or a particular shape.4 A rod with a length of one meter and a rod with a length of two meters do not have the property ‘length’ in common while differing in the properties ‘one meter’ and ‘two meters’. ‘Length’ has no content on its own but rather is a name of a dimension of quantitative properties by which things can be characterized. To capture this characteristic lack of independent content, Wittgenstein refers to ‘length’ as a variable (cf. PG: 351f.). What he means can be illustrated by the following three phrases: 1. There is a rod, and it has a length of ——. 2. There is a rod, and it has a length of one meter. 3. There is a rod, and there is exactly one length it has. Expression (1) is not a statement of fact but an expression that may stand for a multitude of propositions of the same form. To turn it into a proposition capable of truth or falsehood, the blank has to be filled with a particular measure, as in (2). The only other plausible candidate for turning (1) into a statement of fact is a construction with ‘is’, or ‘exists’. The expression (3) says that there is a rod and that there is, for it, exactly one value of ‘has a length of ——’. That is, if ‘The rod has a length’ is to be a proposition that is true or false, it can only be understood as asserting that one proposition of the form ‘There is a rod, and it has a length of ——’ is true. What makes no sense is to assert that the rod has length, full stop, treating it as an ordinary predicate. This would be to confuse the propositional variable (1) with a genuine proposition like (2). Accordingly, the empirical content of (3) reduces to the content of the first existential proposition or to that of the second, when it is taken to say that ‘there is something with a length’. What seems to me difficult to deny is that it must be possible to formulate a sentence like (3), if ‘length’ is to be a variable. The relevance of this point will become apparent only

4 For

the example of the determinable ‘colour’, see Prior 1949: 11–13, 17f.

1 Wittgenstein on ‘Grammatical’ and ‘Metaphysical’ Propositions


later, when we shall examine the proposition ‘There are physical objects’ (cf. chapter 15). To see more clearly how Wittgenstein conceives of grammatical propositions, I quote from a section of the private language discussion in the Investigations, where the same kind of example is examined: But why do I say: “I can’t imagine the opposite”? Why not: “I can’t imagine what you say?” Example: “Every rod has a length.” That means something like: we call something (or this) “the length of a rod” – but nothing “the length of a sphere”. Now can I imagine ‘every rod having a length’? Well, I just imagine a rod; and that is all. Only this picture, in connection with this proposition, has a quite different role from one used in connection with the proposition “This table has the same length as the one over there”. For here I understand what it means to have a picture of the opposite …. But the picture that goes together with the grammatical proposition could only show, say, what is called “the length of a rod”. And what should the opposite picture be? (PI §251c–e)

An empirical proposition, but not a grammatical one, is connected with a picture of the opposite. What a picture of the opposite of ‘This table has the same length as the one over there’ is like, is clear: it has to be a picture of the tables, and it must show them with different lengths. For ‘Every rod has a length’, in contrast, no connection to a picture is laid down in our language. Still, there is something one may imagine, namely simply a rod. In contrast, there is no such possibility for ‘Some rods have no length’. Thus, ‘A rod has a length’ is not like ‘This rod has a length of two meters’ but like ‘A rod is a rod’. The nullity of the negation is a function of the emptiness of the assertion. The only picture that could be taken as corresponding to it is that of an object, just as with ‘A rod is a rod’. This is what I take to be Wittgenstein’s explanation for why we react to ‘Every rod has a length’ by saying that we cannot imagine the opposite, and not that we cannot imagine it to be so. It is clear, then, that Wittgenstein does not view ‘A rod has a length’ as a true proposition, where ‘true’ is bound up with uses of propositions where both affirmation and negation are coherent descriptions of states of affairs.


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It bears repeating that grammatical propositions are a mixed lot. To note that grammatical propositions of the kind under consideration are not truths in the specified sense implies no claim about all propositions that Wittgenstein calls ‘grammatical’. To avoid confusion, I shall sometimes talk of ‘PI-grammatical propositions’ in opposition to those examined in On Certainty, called ‘propositions that stand fast for us’, which are truths (‘OC-grammatical propositions’, if you will). Unlike PI-grammatical propositions, analytic judgements in Kant are conceived as truths, though not in virtue of predicating something about the object corresponding to the subject term. This is clear from the following early reflexion: In analytical judgments the predicate properly applies to [geht eigentlich auf ] the concept a, in synthetic ones to … the object of the concept since the predicate is not contained in the concept. (Ak. XVII: 671, R 4684, 1773–1775, transl. alt.)5

This suggests that an analytic judgement is true about concepts just as a synthetic judgement is true about the way things are. The reflexion does not help to explain why analytic judgements are conceived as truths in the Kantian context while PI-grammatical propositions in Wittgenstein are not. A more basic disagreement between Kant and Wittgenstein needs to be invoked to explain their divergence, one about the nature of judgement as such. For Kant, a negative judgement only avoids the error that would consist in affirming what is in question; no picture of what is the case when the negative judgement is said to be ‘true’ is required for its truth. This doctrine will be considered later on (cf. chapter 5). It is tempting to think that because ‘The room is twenty feet long’ entails that the room has some length or other, the former could serve as evidence for the latter. For Kant, just as for Wittgenstein, that would be absurd (cf. PG: 129): ‘For it would be absurd to ground an analytic proposition on experience.’ (A 7/B 11) That a room cannot be without length is nothing we learn from experience. In a logic lecture from

5 See

also Ak. XVII: 278, R 3738, 1764–1766.

1 Wittgenstein on ‘Grammatical’ and ‘Metaphysical’ Propositions


the early 1780s, Kant is reported to have said: ‘An implicitly identical proposition is provable, e.g. man is a rational being …. I have to analyse the implicitly identical proposition to make it explicitly identical. The proof, then, is based there upon: transforming implicit into explicit identitatem.’ (PL: 581, transl. B. R.; cf. A 729/B 757) Kant does not say here that analyticity is asserted by forming the negation of the proposition, as the first Critique would make us expect (cf. A 151/B 190). In the lecture, the procedure is one of analysing the component concepts. The result of this procedure, Kant says elsewhere, is an explicitly identical judgement, which he also calls a ‘tautological proposition’ (tautologischer Satz) (JL: 111). I have referred to ‘The room has length’, rather than to ‘A room has length’, as to an analytic judgement. Saying that ‘the room has length’, however, could only mean that one is going beyond the analytic judgement and affirming or presupposing the existence of the subject (cf. Ak. XVII: 494, R 4281, 1770–1778). If so, it cannot be analytic, as all existential propositions are synthetic for Kant (cf. A 598/B 626). The proposition ‘The room has length’, one may say, is a cross between two kinds of judgements, or propositions. As such, it may either be analysed as a conjunction of an analytic (grammatical) and an existential proposition, or as: ‘This room, for example, has length’, to make clear that its validity does not depend on the fact that it is, or purports to be, about a particular object. If rendered in the second way, its function becomes more recognizably that of clarifying the component concepts, which is just what Kant and Wittgenstein say about analytic and grammatical propositions, respectively. Still, it is ‘A room has length’ that Kant would have thought of as unambiguously analytic. It might be objected to what has been said here that Wittgenstein does not restrict the use of ‘true’ to propositions where there corresponds a possible state of affairs to both affirmation and negation. He talks of the ‘truth of mathematical propositions’ in various places, though there is clearly no picture of how things would be if 13 × 13 were not 169; no picture of the opposite of 13 × 13 = 169.6 It may now be suggested that,

6 Cf. RFM: 145, 169, 237, 314f., 319, 409. For more references, see Baker & Hacker 2009: 271 n. 26.


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for Wittgenstein, PI-grammatical propositions are ‘true’ in a similar sense as mathematical propositions. Let us examine this suggestion. Two relations of similarity and dissimilarity are now under consideration: one between empirical and mathematical, and one between mathematical and grammatical propositions. Wittgenstein emphasizes in the following passage that since ‘truth’ and ‘proposition’ are correlative notions, it is not only that talk of ‘truth’ in mathematics is built upon an analogy but also talk of ‘propositions’: Might we not do arithmetic without having the idea of uttering arithmetical propositions, and without having ever been struck by the similarity between a multiplication and a proposition? … We are used to saying “2 times 2 is 4”, and the verb “is” makes this into a proposition, and apparently establishes a close kinship with everything that we call a ‘proposition’. Whereas it is a matter only of a very superficial relationship. (RFM: 117, Appendix III to Section I, §4)

The analogy rests upon the existence of procedures by which a mathematical result is checked (cf. BT: 624f.). I take this to mean that such a procedure corresponds to a method of verifying an empirical proposition. As has been seen, Kant suggests – not entirely plausibly – that there is a proof for the analyticity of a proposition. It consists in the fact that an implicitly identical judgement can be transformed into a tautological proposition by dissecting its component concepts. It seems to me quite plain that there is greater immediacy in our understanding of the connection of ‘rod’ and ‘length’ than this picture allows for. To speak of ‘A rod has a length’ as ‘true’, in analogy to the truth of mathematical propositions, would be to rely on the analogy of an analogy. That is, we could just as well use another word (cf. MLN: 185, 257). I therefore think that the suggestion under examination, that grammatical propositions are true in a way similar to mathematical ones, should be rejected – but there are commentators who disagree. In their commentary on the Investigations, Gordon Baker and Peter Hacker talk of ‘necessary truths’, it seems, at first for expository reasons. They think they need this as a designation of a philosophical subject to which Wittgenstein has contributed. They are quick to point out, how-

1 Wittgenstein on ‘Grammatical’ and ‘Metaphysical’ Propositions


ever, that necessity in Wittgenstein is not a mark of certain truths about the inner structure of the world, or of experience, but merely the mark of a certain connection among our concepts. The authors also say that for Wittgenstein necessary propositions are rules, rather than descriptions (cf. Baker & Hacker 2009: 242, 246f.). Nevertheless, they retain the notion of ‘truth’ for grammatical propositions, and at times they insinuate that this is also Wittgenstein’s view (cf. Baker & Hacker 2009: 280). They are certainly aware of the fact that Wittgenstein himself does not use the notion of a ‘necessary truth’ for grammatical propositions. Moreover, in a lecture given in Easter Term 1938, Wittgenstein is reported to have said that ‘either “All pennies are copper” is a factual statement and not logically necessary, or it is a rule, a further instruction; it can’t be both’ (WCL: 81; cf. 72). Still, they seem to think that to do so is compatible with Wittgenstein’s views. There is, in any case, an argument in their commentary that appears to show that grammatical propositions are truths, which turns on a distinction between a rule and a statement of a rule: Although we do not ascribe truth-values to a rule, we have no qualms at all about ascribing truth or falsehood to the statement of a rule – as when we say that it is true that the chess king moves one square at a time, or that it is false that the prime minister presents his cabinet to the president on the third Monday of an election – rather, it is the third Wednesday. (Baker & Hacker 2009: 278)

As the authors acknowledge, we do not talk of a ‘true rule’ or a ‘false rule’; we state a rule ‘correctly’ or ‘incorrectly’. What they mean by ‘ascribing truth or falsehood to the statement of a rule’ is illustrated by the two non-grammatical examples they mention, which, however, can easily be supplemented by grammatical ones: ‘It is false that the German word Leib is only used with living bodies’, ‘It is true that nothing is called “the length of a square” ’, ‘It is true that “it seems to me” cannot be iterated’, and so on. According to Aidun’s terminology, these are grammatical rules. Although Baker and Hacker do not say so explicitly, this argument may be their reason for presenting Wittgenstein in the way they do, as holding that a grammatical proposition is necessarily true. The distinction between the


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rule and its utterance seems indeed to make it possible to say both that a grammatical proposition has the characteristics of conceptual necessity, in virtue of being a rule, and that it is true, in virtue of being a correct statement of a rule. Baker and Hacker must have been aware of the fact that a very similar idea occurs in G. E. Moore’s lecture notes from 1930–33, although they do not mention it. In the early 1930s, Wittgenstein puzzled Moore in saying that rules of grammar and mathematical equations are in one sense ‘neither true nor false’ (cf. ML: 61–63, 73, 80f.). ‘But’, as Moore puts it, ‘if we so use “rule” that the expression “You can’t do that”, when thus used, is expressing a rule, then surely a rule can be true or false.’ (ML: 62) It should be noted, however, that if we say, ‘You can’t do that’, this may be paraphrased as: ‘It is not correct to do it’, or: ‘It is true that you can’t do it’. Truth comes in only in the second formulation, which says something like: ‘It is true that this is the rule.’ I therefore agree with Aidun when she says: The two senses of grammatical rule to which Moore calls attention are perhaps more profitably conceived as two aspects of the same rule, or as the same rule seen from two different standpoints, an internal and an external standpoint. (Aidun 1981: 145)

What Aidun calls the ‘internal’ and the ‘external’ standpoints are crucial to her conclusion that PI-grammatical propositions are not necessary truths – understanding ‘necessity’ as logical and ‘truth’ in the ordinary, non-analogical, sense. Whenever a grammatical rule, meaning now the sentence, is conceived as true, it is in fact the corresponding statement that the rule is in force that is true, and whenever the sentence appears to be a necessary proposition, it is being used as a rule (cf. Aidun 1981: 146). Alternatively, one might say, as Stanley Cavell does, that it operates in two different, but logically related, contexts. If the sentence is a true description of the practice of a language, it is wrong (incorrect) to go against the corresponding rule (cf. Cavell 1969a: 15f.). The following passage from Wittgenstein’s Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics points in the same direction (quotation marks omitted): ‘If you say: “I believe that castling takes place in such and such a way”, then you are not

1 Wittgenstein on ‘Grammatical’ and ‘Metaphysical’ Propositions


believing the rule of chess, but believing e.g. that a rule of chess runs like that.’ (RFM: 78) The distinction between the two ‘standpoints’ can be further clarified by another remark which puzzled Moore: ‘I think [Wittgenstein] was using “true” and “false” in a restricted sense …, i.e. in a sense in which no propositions about how words are used can be said to be “true” or “false”.’ (ML: 81) Moore quotes the following statement as an example: ‘You can’t say that you put 3 + 3, and deny that you put 6.’ Moore recalls that Wittgenstein denied that this statement should be called ‘true’. What Moore thinks is a restricted sense of ‘true’ and ‘false’ applies only where there is also a picture of the opposite. This is not the case with ‘Three plus three is six’; there is nothing to imagine as corresponding to the negation of 3 + 3 = 6. The point to gather is that not only grammatical propositions, such as ‘A square has no length’, are like this but also grammatical rules, such as ‘There is nothing called “the length of a square” ’, if our standpoint is internal, that is, if the component words are used with the meanings they have now. A word is not just a repeatable string of sounds, or marks, but a repeatable sign that is used in a certain way. It cannot be supposed that ‘length’ has an entirely different use from the one it has – that of applying to squares, e.g. – and still be that word. If grammatical rules were not to share this feature with grammatical propositions, it would speak against viewing the latter as grammatical at all. The internal standpoint can be characterized as one within a given language, where the signs are used or explained according to their actual meaning. The external standpoint, on the other hand, is a standpoint semantically external to a given language or a given mathematical practice. It can be supposed that ‘You can’t say that you put 3 + 3, and deny that you put 6’ is false in the sense in which it might not be a correct statement of an existing mathematical rule. This would not be a case in which you can say that you put 3 + 3 and deny that you put 6 but a case in which the corresponding rule would not exist in our practice. That is, the assertion is not internal, as truth and falsehood do not figure into the content of the rule. The picture of the opposite is that of a mathematical practice from which the rule is absent, though the same string of symbols might be present with another meaning.


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A version of the Baker-Hacker argument is used to the same aim by Severin Schroeder. Schroeder argues that a sentence like ‘The bishop moves only diagonally’ can be used both normatively and descriptively at the same time (cf. Schroeder 2009: 107). This is what he calls an ‘amalgamation of description and normativity’ (Schroeder 2009: 108). Schroeder thinks that Wittgenstein takes ‘There is no reddish green’ and ‘There is no transparent white’ to be conceptual truths, though Wittgenstein does not use this notion (Schroeder 2009: 105). Just as with Baker and Hacker, Schroeder remains somewhat vague about whether he thinks that this is Wittgenstein’s view regarding all, or most, grammatical propositions. Instead of repeating my reply to Baker and Hacker, I wish to address an observation Schroeder makes about non-trivial grammatical propositions like ‘There is no reddish green’ or ‘There is no transparent white’. He says that they are not suitable for teaching the meaning of the component words and that ‘these truths have to be discovered’ (Schroeder 2009: 105). There is a sound point to this, and one that brings us back to Kant. Schroeder is right to insist that Wittgenstein allows for conceptual relations of which we may not become aware before engaging in conceptual analysis. That is to say, we do have an analogue here of Kant’s dissection of concepts, though not as an activity familiar to anyone but as part of a philosophical investigation. It is just the kind of activity that Wittgenstein thinks supports the analogy in the other case, that of empirical and mathematical propositions (cf. BT: 624f.). Nevertheless, there is nothing to suggest that he wished to emphasize a similar analogy between empirical and PI-grammatical propositions. He gives centrality to the question of whether a proposition is connected with pictures of the states of things and their opposites. There is no such picture in the case of PI-grammatical propositions, so that for Wittgenstein they are not true or false in what Moore called the ‘restricted’ sense. In what way this renders problematic any attempt to stage grammatical propositions as transcendental conditions will be concretized in the following chapter.

2 The Question of Linguistic Idealism

In view of the nature of Wittgenstein’s post-Tractarian writings, it is not evident how they could be read as propagating a linguistic form of idealism. Criticism of idealistic and solipsistic positions can be found throughout Wittgenstein’s work, early and late. This appears to be irreconcilable with the suggestion that he might be an idealist himself, all the more so since idealism and solipsism, in Wittgenstein, are just as much metaphysical as linguistic doctrines (cf. Part III, introduction). Moreover, he does not only criticize idealism and solipsism but also declares himself for realism:‘The realist is always right in what he says, but the idealist sees the problems that are there and which the realist does not see.’ (vW 156b: 22v, early 1930s, transl. B. R.) In brief: it is idealism which has a lesson to teach but realism that is right. Some commentators have argued that there is a way to view Wittgenstein as an idealist that can accommodate these kinds of passages. The blueprint for this interpretation is Kant. Most Kant scholars think that Kant’s transcendental idealism is consistent with his criticism of empirical idealism. Empirical idealism, particularly in its ‘dogmatic’ form, bears strong similarities to the idealism that Wittgenstein opposed. Accordingly, it is not sufficient to invoke Wittgenstein’s criticism of idealism

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_2



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and solipsism in order to reject the thesis that he himself might be a transcendental idealist. To this, it might be added that Wittgenstein’s realism does not necessarily stand in the way of such an attribution either. As proposed by Cora Diamond, Wittgenstein’s ‘realistic spirit’ is more accurately related to ordinary uses of ‘realism’, as epitomized in the familiar admonition: ‘Be realistic!’ (Diamond 1991: 39) This realism is not, as such, a philosophical position (cf. Diamond 1991: 39–41). Indeed, ‘the common-sense man’, we are told in The Blue Book, ‘is as far from realism as from idealism’ (BB: 48). If that is the case, it cannot be in conflict, at least not directly, with the attribution of a form of transcendental idealism to Wittgenstein. For most commentators, the question is whether Wittgenstein held a linguistic form of transcendental idealism, which is typically asked without doing much to clarify what is attributed (cf., e.g. Hutto 1996: 122– 125, Moore 2007: 187). I shall argue that indeed no clear sense can be attached to this notion on any of the interpretations discussed in this chapter. This unclarity is a consequence of the idea that a linguistic form of transcendental idealism is supposed to identify the transcendental conditions of the world’s ‘constitution’ with the conditions of meaningful talk. An attempt to give substance to the idea is to emphasize the possibility of radical alternatives. According to Adrian Moore, for example, transcendental idealism is the view that the limits set by what we consider to be logically possible exclude genuine alternatives to how things are (cf. Moore 2013: 246). It should be obvious, however, that Kant’s transcendental idealism cannot be the model of such a doctrine. As is entailed even by Moore’s own discussion, the distinction between transcendental realism and transcendental idealism in Kant is drawn within the logically possible (cf. Moore 2013: 249). To let this idealism coincide with limits of intelligibility would have made no sense for Kant. It is unclear, then, why such a doctrine should be referred to as ‘transcendental idealism’ at all. This term has first been suggested as a label for Wittgenstein’s views in Bernard Williams’ 1972 paper, ‘Wittgenstein and Idealism’, reprinted in 1981 in Moral Luck. As Stephen Mulhall notes, Williams does not bring out these views by any careful analysis of the relevant texts (cf. Mulhall 2008: 388). It is difficult to make out why we should follow

2 The Question of Linguistic Idealism


him in thinking that they are there. What is obvious enough, though, is that the closing remarks of the Tractatus seem to state a view like this, in particular the line which says that ‘anyone who understands me eventually recognizes [my propositions] as nonsensical, when he has used them – as steps – to climb up beyond them’ (TLP 6.54). There is nothing wrongheaded in noting the perplexities of what might be expressed in these lines. I am less sure about the practice of stretching this special problem of Wittgenstein exegesis so as to extend it to that of transcendental idealism, which is, after all, a term with a historically sedimented meaning. Wittgenstein himself does not talk of ‘transcendental idealism’, let alone ‘transcendental solipsism’ (Hacker 1972b: 58, 188), a notion which has no coherent Kantian interpretation. Using Hacker’s book as a guiding thread, Williams nevertheless claims to find three ‘transcendental ideas’ in the Tractatus, namely: that the limits of my language are the limits of our world; that there could be no way in which those limits could be staked out from both sides – rather, the limits of language and thought reveal themselves in the fact that certain things are nonsensical; and … that the ‘me’ and ‘my’ which occur in those remarks do not relate to an ‘I’ in the world, and hence we cannot conceive of it as a matter of empirical investigation … to determine why my world is this way rather than that way, why my language has some feature rather than others, etc. (Williams 1981: 146)

One fundamental difficulty with this account is how one could possibly establish that the ‘limits of thought’ are really limits, rather than just scattered points where our understanding comes to an end. What, in a work such as the Investigations, could lend itself to the idea that there are such clear-cut limits, which could be identified with anything like ‘limits of the world’, as Williams will ultimately argue? Mulhall notes another perplexity (cf. Mulhall 2008: 389). Williams first says that ‘attempts to talk about [the transcendental self ] or state its existence must certainly be nonsense’, and then continues: ‘Whatever exactly we make of that, we can recover from the Tractatus discussion of the self and solipsism three ideas which will be particularly important points of reference in what follows’, which are the ideas quoted before.


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The question, of course, is not what exactly we make of the fact that talk about the transcendental self is nonsensical but what we make of it at all: According to Williams’ own account of the matter, any statement of these transcendental conditions that is meaningful must be false, and any accurate statement of them must be meaningless. So on which horn of this dilemma does he think that his own statement of these conditions falls? (Mulhall 2008: 390)

This ‘reflexive problem’, as Mulhall calls it, arises not only, per supposition, for Wittgenstein but for any commentator who claims that such a view is expressed in the Tractatus. It seems to be a view one cannot really argue for but only argue from. As will be seen presently, this is indeed the case in Williams. He claims that the move from the early, transcendental, ‘I’ to the ‘we’ of the later work is not a move away from transcendental idealism. Rather, ‘the move from “I” to “we” takes place within the transcendental ideas themselves’ (Williams 1981: 147). And further: ‘I shall suggest also that this [idealist] element may help to explain a particular feature of the later work, namely a pervasive vagueness and indefiniteness in the use Wittgenstein makes of “we”.’ (Williams 1981: 147) The only support Williams gives for this interpretation is that it is able to explain these features. He appeals to a deeper level of philosophical motivation in Wittgenstein, while the explanandum consists of other, more manifest features of his later writings. Williams says that it is ‘hard to substantiate any unqualified claim of that kind’ (Williams 1981: 153). It may seem that he is being half-hearted, but I do not think that he is. He is not saying that he is uncertain, but that no one can be certain. The claim he is making is essentially hypothetical, aiming at a philosophical motivation that is not open to view. It cannot be established by exegetical considerations of the usual kind. Without wishing to defend Williams’ approach, I think that the meagerness of textual support in his essay is consistent with the kind of claim he is making. The most simple way to counter Williams’ attempt at explanation is by denying the explanandum. This is what Norman Malcolm does when he says that the reference of ‘we’ in Wittgenstein is shifting but always deter-

2 The Question of Linguistic Idealism


minate: ‘The reference is always to some actual human group or society, in contrast with another real or imagined one.’ (Malcolm 1982: 93) It seems to me that Malcolm is much too fixated on the grammar of descriptive language. We also speak to others and for others in contexts in which who these others are is not determined by any prior description. These ‘others’ are whoever is prepared to count him- or herself in, as someone we can speak for. It is surprising that Stanely Cavell’s rival account of Wittgenstein’s use of ‘we’, to be outlined in the next chapter, has not more often been invoked in the debate. As far as I am aware of, Mulhall was the first to do so (cf. Mulhall 2008: 401–403). Williams is right that the attempts of the solipsist at expressing his privileged position share a common element with the first-person-plural statements with which we are concerned. The solipsist uses the ‘I’ without contrast (cf. chapter 12). Something like this is also seen in statements of what we can imagine, or what we can conceive. Malcolm’s view is that a statement of what we can imagine implies reference to people with certain imaginative abilities and the possession of certain concepts. It is true that this is one group rather than another. But whoever makes a claim about what we can imagine does not oppose a particular group to another group, as in a case of differing opinions. There is no ordinary contrastive use of statements of what we can imagine or conceive. I might emphasize that we find something agreeable, and perhaps also that we find something believable, but not that we, as opposed to someone else, find something conceivable. This appeals to the general agreement of people who are capable of judging matters. This ‘we’ is often vague and indefinite and may require explanation, but there is no recognized standard by which this vagueness could be found ‘unsatisfactory’, as Williams suggests. Let us now look at some passages in Wittgenstein where he talks about the relation of conceivability and logical possibility. I begin with juxtaposing a remark from Philosophical Grammar and a similarly worded passage from the Investigations: “Possible” here means as much as “conceivable” [denkbar]; but “conceivable” may mean “paintable”, “representable in a model”, “imaginable” [vorstellbar], that is: representable in a particular system of propositions.


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Well, what matters is the system. – (vW 114: 119, 1932 = PG: 127f., transl. alt.) Instead of “imaginability”, one can also say here: representability [Darstellbarkeit] in a particular medium of representation. (PI §397)

By saying what ‘conceivability’ or ‘imaginability’ mean here, Wittgenstein is referring to his own philosophical investigations. In both passages, he is concerned with the question of which sense of ‘imaginability’ or ‘conceivability’ is relevant for this investigation. His answer is that it is not a matter of simply associating a picture with a linguistic expression but one of imagining something with a projective relation to something in the world. The impossibility of something unimaginable, according to Wittgenstein, is the impossibility of the activity of representing such a thing. This is why he says elsewhere that only the application of a rule, of a procedure, can show that something is possible or impossible (cf. BT: 451r–452r). We know that something is impossible if we cannot construct it. To say that we can imagine something is to say that a certain conceptual move has a role in our language-game, and thus in our life. Wittgenstein is aware that this account invites the problem of arbitrariness (Willkür): ‘So it depends wholly on our grammar what will be called possible and what not, i.e. what that grammar permits. But surely that is arbitrary!’ (PG: 127) If what is possible is dependent on our grammar, alternative grammars might make other things possible. I think it rather obvious that these ideas lead away from idealism. If there is an issue here, it is that of conventionalism and relativism, which both are incompatible with idealism. This, however, is not everyone’s view. Michael Forster, for example, maintains that the later Wittgenstein’s position, like Kant’s, is a form of idealism (cf. Forster 2004: 15–17). I won’t consider the reasons Forster gives for the contention that ‘Wittgenstein’s position can quite properly be described as idealist, in a sense closely analogous to that in which Kant’s was’ (Forster 2004: 17). Instead, I wish to focus on another attribution he makes. He attributes to Wittgenstein what he has called the ‘diversity thesis’ (cf. Forster 2004: 21–65). The diversity thesis says that ‘for all grammatical principles in all areas of the grammar which governs our “true-false games,” alternative but in some degree similar grammatical principles … either have actually been used or

2 The Question of Linguistic Idealism


are at least possible and conceivable’ (Forster 2004: 21). I shall not discuss whether his attribution of the ‘diversity thesis’ to Wittgenstein can be supported exegetically but only focus on the attributed view. Although Forster says that these alternatives are conceivable, he also uses language that is in tension with this statement. He says that the alternatives are ‘rivals’ in the sense of involving ‘conceptual incommensurability’ (cf. Forster 2004: 204, n. 1). If we take together all the mentioned features of the principles of a supposedly linguistic form of transcendental idealism, we get the idea of principles that are transcendental; involve a commitment to idealism; and are linguistic and also arbitrary, in the sense of allowing for ‘rivals’. These are inconsistent requirements. Idealism is the view that certain features of reality have their source essentially in our minds, which, in this case, expresses itself in our grammar. Supposing that there are radically different minds and thus radically different grammars, each of which determines reality to be different, or ‘constitutes’ it as different, we arrive at the absurd conclusion that reality would have to be all these different things at once. If, on the other hand, we assume that it is not absurd that the world can be all these different things at once, we thereby admit that the differences between the grammars cannot be as substantial as we have been supposing. In neither case do we get idealism. Forster realizes that this ‘pluralism’, as he calls it, distinguishes Wittgenstein from Kant: ‘It is indeed one of the main differences between their respective ways of developing their explanations of necessity [which Forster takes to be a major focus in both] that, whereas Kant is a unitarian …, Wittgenstein is a committed pluralist[.]’ (Forster 2004: 202, n. 26) This concession does not bring Forster to revise his view that Wittgenstein’s position is closely analogous to Kant’s idealism. However, a position which allows for ‘transcendental’ principles to which there are indefinitely many alternatives, thus making them contingent, is the opposite of Kant’s position. It should also be clear that the contingent facts on which these alternative principles depend cannot themselves be constituted. As in Peter Sullivan’s account of ‘transcendental idealism’ in the later Wittgenstein, they are simply taken to be there (cf. Sullivan 2003: 221f., Moore 2013: 242). The resulting ‘idealism’ is partial at best, if it is a form of idealism at all. For admitting that a plurality of idealisms could coexist


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with one another contradicts the Kantian, and probably every sensible, notion of ‘idealism’. I said earlier that the vagueness of Wittgenstein’s ‘we’ is not the only textual feature that Williams wishes to explain. On the last page of his essay, he quotes a remark by Wittgenstein which is often taken to substantiate a commitment to idealism (cf. Williams 1981: 163): We have a colour system as we have a number system. Do the systems reside in our nature or in the nature of things? How are we to put it? – Not in the nature of numbers or colours. (RPP II §426 = Z §357)

On a very common, but ultimately untenable, reading of this remark, Wittgenstein leaves a supposedly obvious conclusion to the reader (cf. Forster 2004: 15). If our number and colour systems do not reside in the nature of things, they must reside in our nature. It is to Williams’ credit that this is not how he intends this remark to substantiate his reading. For him, it is both the indication that they reside in our nature together with Wittgenstein’s diffidence in answering the question in this way that he takes to support his claim (cf. Williams 1981: 163). This ‘diffidence’ is another ‘curious and unsatisfactory’ feature in Wittgenstein’s later writings to be explained. The explanation is that when everything points to idealism, Wittgenstein must refrain from stating so explicitly, because he is convinced that by so doing he would cross the limit of what can be said with sense. This suggestion involves the idea of a type of nonsense that points to an inexpressible content lying behind it. The alleged presence of such a content cannot be directly established, as the immediate fact is merely that something is unintelligible to us. Any conclusion to the effect that this is really indicative of a transcendental hinge, as it were, between language and reality must be grounded on some other principle. But on which? A bad answer would be to say that this other principle is a PI-grammatical proposition (cf. chapter 1). As I said earlier, PI-grammatical propositions in Wittgenstein give us no idea of an alternative to the way they seem to say how things are. In fact, they do not say how things are at all, according to Wittgenstein; rather, they make connections between concepts, or

2 The Question of Linguistic Idealism


register their absence, e.g. between ‘rod’ and ‘length’, or ‘reddish’ and ‘green’. We have no idea of what there could be, in the world, for PIgrammatical propositions to determine to be as things are now, as there is no conceptual room for such a ‘determination’. The point can perhaps be made clearer in Kantian terminology. In Kant, the principle of analytic cognition is distinct from the supreme principle of cognition of a priori synthetic judgements (cf. A 158/B 197). No synthetic a priori judgement that asserts a connection between concepts A and B can be established without relation to a third thing, which is possible experience. A synthetic a priori judgement of the relevant kind can be seen to be valid only if seen to be a transcendental condition of experience. An analytic judgement, in contrast, contains concepts that are ‘thought through identity’ (A 7/B 10). If an analytic judgement q is written as a necessary condition of a non-analytic judgement p, then ‘If p, then q’ is true whenever q is true, which is to say: always. It does not matter which non-analytic judgement p is. If, on the other hand, q is part of the definition or exposition of a concept contained in p, there is nothing transcendental about their interdependence, as every term bears that relation to its explanation. Being unmarried is not a ‘transcendental condition’ of being a bachelor. The conclusion to draw is that an analytic judgement cannot be a transcendental condition, and the same holds for PI-grammatical propositions.1 If they were to appear in a transcendental argument, they would have to be treated like tautologies. No factual proposition can depend on them as on a condition. The present point won’t be taken up before long but will be seen to be crucial for the relationship between Kant and Wittgenstein (cf. chapter 19). Let us return to the passage Williams has quoted at the end of his paper: ‘Do the systems [of numbers and colours] reside in our nature or in the nature of things?’ Wittgenstein replies: ‘How are we to put it? Not in the nature of numbers or colours.’ (RPP II §426) Mulhall explains Wittgenstein’s reluctance to fully answer the question as follows:

1 There

is a prominent passage in the Critique that seems to say the contrary about the principle of the necessary unity of apperception (cf. B 135). For discussions, see Guyer 1987: 133–149, Glock 1997: 294f., Allison 2004: 163–167, Schulting 2013: 58, 95–103 and Dyck 2017: 36–38, 44f.


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Wittgenstein does not actually answer the question he poses; he rejects one possible answer to it, and otherwise registers bewilderment of a kind that suggests (as elsewhere in his later writings) a sense of latent obscurity or meaninglessness in the terms of the question. (Mulhall 2008: 395)

Mulhall thinks that, according to Wittgenstein, the question should not and cannot be answered in the terms in which it is posed. This suggests that there is no such answer to be found in Wittgenstein. In fact, such an answer can be extracted from partly unpublished manuscripts by Wittgenstein from the 1940s, as Joachim Schulte has demonstrated (cf. Schulte 2014: 31). It can also be had at lower exegetical costs from a passage from Wittgenstein’s recently published ‘Lectures on Belief ’: If our categories depend upon an enormous mass of such facts which they [i.e. people] never mention, [but] are actually as it were fundamental, then if we said that our categories rested upon a convention, it would obviously be very funny in a way. You see, convention – this isn’t what you would normally call a convention. It is sometimes important to stress the similarity between such things as a convention; as it is, at other times, to talk of a social contract, although this can be as misleading as hell. On the other hand, if you said, ‘If it isn’t convention that we distinguish these categories, then it is a matter of the nature of these objects’, this is just as misleading. If we said it was the nature of anything, we might say it was a matter of the nature of our lives. (WCL: 234, 21 May 1940)

This is a low-key answer, gesturing towards some very general facts of life, things we knew all along but whose mention only now strikes us as an ‘answer’. I agree with Schulte when he says that Wittgenstein is reluctant to answer the question because ‘he would not want our nature and the nature of things to enter the equation separately’ (Schulte 2014: 31). As the quoted passage indicates, our nature and the nature of things enter the equation together under the concept of ‘life’. The other side of the equation is the language-game. Our system of concepts and our life are unified into a structured whole which consists of language-games. Neither ‘idealism’ nor ‘conventionalism’ would be a good description of this account.

2 The Question of Linguistic Idealism


To conclude this chapter, I want briefly to turn to an alternative construal of linguistic idealism suggested in the literature. It goes back to Elizabeth Anscombe’s 1976 paper ‘The Question of Linguistic Idealism’, which makes no mention of Williams. Anscombe quotes a well-known, though by itself obscure, remark from the Investigations: ‘Essence is expressed by grammar.’ (PI §371) She considers a simple argument for linguistic idealism, which can be stated as a one-liner: since essence is expressed by grammar, and grammar is man-made, essence is man-made (cf. Anscombe 1976: 112f.). In support of an attribution of this view to Wittgenstein, she quotes him as saying that ‘it is not the property of an object that is ever ‘essential’, but rather the mark of a concept’ (RFM: 64). Another passage she quotes is: ‘[I]f you talk about essence – you are merely noting a convention.’ (RFM: 65) Linguistic idealism, she proposes, is the doctrine that essence is created by grammar. Anscombe then goes on to formulate ‘the following test, if we want to know whether Wittgenstein is a “linguistic idealist” ’, namely: ‘We shall ask the question: Does this existence, or this truth, depend upon human linguistic practice?’ (Anscombe 1976: 116) Naturally, there are ‘a great many things whose existence does depend on human linguistic practice’. Anscombe gives three examples that strike her as ‘not trivial’: ‘The cases I have in mind are three: rules, rights and promises.’ (Anscombe 1976: 118) Other than David Bloor, I am doubtful about whether she intended this to be more than a possible view (cf. Bloor 1996: 356–359). Bloor thinks that there is an idealist component inherent in our language in the shape of the ‘self-creating character of our linguistic practices’ (Bloor 1996: 370). I agree that there would be no rules, no promises, and no rights without linguistic practices. But these are not idealistic entities simply because they do not exist in the same way as horses do (Bloor’s example). Nor is it clear whether they can be said to ‘depend’ on linguistic practices as something clearly distinct from them. That this ‘dependence’ should involve linguistic idealism can be maintained only if we accept a questionable general standard for what is to count as real and what as less so. If one is an idealist in virtue of admitting the pedestrian fact that promises depend on linguistic practices, what would it mean to be a realist about promises? I do not think that there is a sensible answer, and that because we do not have here a


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sensible way of drawing a realism-idealism contrast. Bloor at least partly acknowledges this towards the end of his paper, where he says that talking of ‘linguistic idealism’ may just be another obscurantist way of describing the operation of human conventions (cf. Bloor 1996: 375). Indeed, he departs from the idea that the mind is constitutive of things ‘in the world’, which is what metaphysical idealism has always been understood to be. Finally, this ‘idealism’ fails to relate instructively to the idea of essence in Wittgenstein. It should be remembered that it was originally meant to explain Wittgenstein’s dictum that what is essential is not a property of an object but of a concept, which is a task Bloor entirely loses sight of. The dependence of rules, promises, and rights on the existence of a linguistic practice is not restricted to ‘essential’ attributes. It is difficult to think of any properties of rules, promises, and rights which do not depend in this way on the existence of a linguistic practice.

3 Wittgenstein and What We Can Say

As Williams has noted, first-person-plural statements are conspicuously frequent in Wittgenstein’s later writings. The types of first-person-plural statements in question are, in particular, those about what we should say when,1 what we can imagine, and what we are tempted to say in philosophy. It is indeed puzzling how Wittgenstein can be in a position to make this kind of general statement – certainly not by having conducted empirical research. Objections against this kind of claim have been raised as early as they have been taken to define a distinct way of doing philosophy.2 I shall restrict my discussion to Stanley Cavell’s positive account of the validity of this kind of judgement before proceeding to examine the nature of Wittgenstein’s hostility to philosophical explanation. According to Cavell, the generality of a statement about what we can say is not fixed prior to, and independently of, a claim to general agreement (cf. Cavell 1979: 18–20, 22, 27f.). Cavell suggests that this is a feature shared with Kant’s conception of aesthetic judgements (cf. 1 This

is how J. L. Austin phrased the question, ‘what we should say when, what words we should use in what situation’ (Austin 1979b: 182). 2 See, e.g. Mates 1964, esp. page 68; Cavell 1969a: 3–8; Fodor & Katz 1963, esp. pages 59f.; and Bates & Cohen 1972. © The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_3



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Cavell 1969c: 86–96). Kant distinguishes two kinds of judgements of taste; one is concerned with the agreeable, the other with the beautiful (cf. KdU: 214). The first he calls ‘private’ in that it allows a retreat to personal taste when met with disagreement. It is perfectly normal to say that I find something agreeable, or that it is agreeable to me, even if nobody shares my sentiment. An aesthetic judgement, in contrast, is different in that it typically makes an appeal to the consent of others. It is Kant’s conception of a ‘universal voice’ which Cavell finds congenial to the ordinary language philosopher’s appeal to what we can say: [I]n the judgement of taste [on the beautiful] nothing is postulated except such a universal voice with regard to satisfaction without the mediation of concepts, hence the possibility of an aesthetic judgment that could at the same time be considered valid for anyone. The judgement of taste does not itself postulate the accord to every one (only a logically universal judgement can do that, since it can adduce grounds); it only ascribes [sinnt an] this agreement to anyone, as a case of the rule with regard to which it expects confirmation not from concepts but only from the consent of others. (KdU: 216)

The German verb ansinnen as used in this remarkable passage is not easy to translate. The Guyer-Wood translation has ‘ascribe’, but this is too strongly connected with fact-stating language. Something is truly ascribed to someone, if that person has the property or attitude in question. Cavell uses three terms to circumscribe the German ansinnen: ‘demand’, ‘impute’, and ‘claim’ (Cavell 1969c: 89). To my mind, ‘demand’ is the most fitting. When a demand is unsuccessful, it is not contradicted by a fact but refused by a person, which is what Kant intends here. The point of emphasizing this aspect is not that of rendering Wittgenstein’s first-person-plural statements immune to criticism. A significant lack in agreement between him and his readers would still prove detrimental to the Investigations. What the comparison with Kant is intended to bring out is that there are other ways of establishing the generality of a claim, apart from ‘counting noses’ (Cavell 1969a: 4). The present type of first-person-plural statement has to be distinguished from formulations with ‘we are inclined to say’ or ‘one would

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like to say’. In Wittgenstein, these are signals of reservation or caution. The status of this type of statement is clarified in the following remark: And that [i.e. hitting the correct nuance] is in question in philosophy only where we have to give a psychologically accurate account of the temptation to use a particular mode of expression. What we are ‘tempted to say’ in such a case is, of course, not philosophy; but it is its raw material … something for philosophical treatment. (PI §254)

What is prefixed by a signal like ‘we are tempted to say’ should articulate a commonly shared reaction. The validity of this type of first-personplural statement therefore depends crucially on being acknowledged by the interlocutor or the reader as being what has motivated him or her to adopt a certain philosophical view. In the following passage from the early 1930s, Wittgenstein is very pronounced in this respect: One of the most important tasks is to express all false thought processes so true to character that the reader says, “Yes, that’s exactly the way I meant it”. To make a tracing of the physiognomy of every error. Indeed, we can only prove that someone made a mistake if he … acknowledges this expression as the correct expression of his feeling. For only if he acknowledges it as such, is it the correct expression. (Psychoanalysis.) (BT: 410)

The eventual acceptance by the reader is constitutive of the validity of Wittgenstein’s philosophical diagnosis. This is what makes him think of psychoanalysis. He later came to associate psychoanalysis with a method that proceeds essentially by hypotheses about something hidden, which is precisely not how he wants his philosophy to be understood. This is why he drops mention of psychoanalysis from the Investigations in a related context.3 Still, the comparison is in place only if the relevant kind of explanation makes appeal to the idea of there being something to acknowledge by the interlocutor of which he, or she, is not fully aware in 3 Freud’s

name appears in a note at the bottom of a page in an earlier draft of the Investigations in connection with what is now §102 (cf. KgE: 514 = vW 239: 47). See also the quotation below from the Big Typescript (BT: 100f. = PG: 210).


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the first place. This idea is far from straightforward and will receive more attention in a moment. It may have been noticed that I used an apparently forbidden word to characterize Wittgenstein’s approach, ‘explanation’. It is not explanation, but only description, we should aim at in philosophy! To see whether this simple rebuttal is consonant with Wittgenstein’s methodological views, at least all of the following remarks from the Investigations should be read carefully: There must not be anything hypothetical in our considerations. All explanation must disappear, and description alone must take its place. (PI §109) A main source of our failure to understand is that we don’t have an overview of the use of our words. – Our grammar is deficient in surveyability. … The concept of a surveyable representation is of fundamental significance for us. … (PI §122) Philosophy just puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. – Since everything lies open to view, there is nothing to explain. For whatever may be hidden is of no interest to us. (PI §126) If someone were to advance theses in philosophy, it would never be possible to debate them, because everyone would agree to them. (PI §128)

Adding background to these notorious statements, one should recall that Wittgenstein does not reject just anything that might justly be called ‘explanation’ in philosophy. He accepts at least three senses of ‘explanation’ as contributing positively to what he has to say: explanations of the meaning of words, explanations of why we want to use certain words on certain occasions, and explanations of how certain philosophical perplexities could have arisen in the first place. An example for the second type of explanation is Wittgenstein’s account of why we react to ‘Every rod has a length’ in the way we do (cf. PI §251, chapter 1). An example for the third type is the Blue Book explanation of the emergence of the idea of a res cogitans (cf. chapter 12). A first hint at the conception of explanation that he rejects can be detected in the first and third of the quoted remarks. In these remarks, ‘explanation’ is connected to the hypothetical and the hidden, insofar as these notions characterize a philosophical approach. Let us see what this could mean.

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Wittgenstein’s view in the Tractatus is that ordinary language is already ‘in perfect logical order’ (TLP 5.5563). In the Investigations, Wittgenstein refers to this perfect order as the ‘ideal’ (cf. PI §100–105). This ideal is what is hidden: ‘The strict and clear rules for the logical construction of a proposition appear to us as something in the background – hidden in the medium of understanding.’ (PI §102) Looking back to his earlier philosophy, he writes in 1931: The idea of constructing elementary propositions (as e.g. Carnap has tried to do) rests on a false notion of logical analysis. It is not the task of that analysis to discover a theory of elementary propositions, like discovering principles of mechanics. My notion in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was wrong: 1) because I wasn’t clear about the sense of the words “a logical product is hidden in a sentence” (and suchlike), 2) because I too thought that logical analysis had to bring to light what was hidden (as chemical and physical analysis do). (PG: 210)

This logical substructure is supposed to make the proper functioning of our language possible, entirely independent of whether or not anybody is aware of it. I shall later argue that Kant’s synthesis of perceptions is essentially hypothetical in the exact same way. That is, there is no way of finding out the structure of synthesis independently of its hypothetical effects (cf. chapter 17). Wittgenstein’s later view, in contrast, can be highlighted with the help of a remark on ostensive teaching, a process that may be used to train (abrichten) a child: ‘I do not want to call this “ostensive explanation” or “definition”, because the child cannot as yet ask what the name is.’ (PI §6) This notion of explanation is made dependent on the person to whom the explanation is given. I suggest that this applies generally to the explanations Wittgenstein gives in the Investigations. If he were to introduce something hypothetical, he would no longer be giving explanations to someone but assuming an impersonal stance of theorizing, something whose conditions of success would be independent of any reaction of the reader. It is against this kind of explanation that he opposes his descriptive approach (cf. PI §598f.).


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A notable means of examining and exhibiting grammatical connections and distinctions in the Investigations are what Wittgenstein has introduced as ‘language-games’. The notion of a ‘language-game’ is often taken to be a generic term for ways in which we actually operate with language in a multiplicity of contexts in ordinary life. This, however, is not the sense of ‘language-game’ that matters most in the Investigations.4 That the other sense often goes unnoticed is probably due to Wittgenstein’s association with ordinary language philosophy. If this connection is made between ‘language-game’ and ‘ordinary language’, it will seem plausible to think that language-games are directly related to a conception of what is, and what is not, ‘ordinary’ and ‘normal’. This suggests that Wittgenstein will reject a philosophical description of the use of a concept if it does not correspond to ordinary usage. In fact, the notion of a ‘language-game’ in Wittgenstein is not restricted to the serious language-games of everyday life. A language-game may also be literary (‘Acting in a play’), non-serious (‘Singing rounds’, ‘Cracking a joke’), mathematical (‘Solving a problem in applied arithmetic’), or scientific (‘Forming and testing a hypothesis’, ‘Presenting the results of an experiment in tables and diagrams’) (PI §23c). It is part of the notion of a language-game that new language-games can be invented, or develop out of existing ones (cf. PI §23a, §68f.). Since language-games are not restricted to serious language-games of everyday life and since they are principally open-ended, they cannot be invoked as a norm against the traditional philosopher. There are many ways of using a word that depart from its primary use, without leading to paradox. The mere fact that there is a difference, even a vast one, between primary and secondary uses of words is no reason to think that the latter are suspicious (cf. PI §282c, PPF §275–8). A remark written on 19 October, 1946, should be quoted more often in this connection: What is it that is repulsive in the idea that we study the use of a word, point to mistakes in the description of this use and so on? First and foremost one asks oneself: How could that be so important to us? It depends on 4 Schulte talks of a ‘wide’ and a ‘narrow’ sense of ‘language-game’ instead of an opposition of senses,

which latter is preferred here (cf. Schulte 2004: 38 n. 24).

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whether what one calls a ‘wrong description’ is a description that does not accord with established usage – or one which does not accord with the practice of the person giving the description. Only in the second case does a philosophical conflict arise. (RPP I §548)

A philosophical conflict arises when the philosopher’s description of a concept does not correspond to his or her own actual practice. Hence, it is not that a norm is drawn from supposed ‘everyday usage’, narrowly construed, and the philosophical use rejected for deviating from it. What matters is the norm of the philosopher’s own practice. This involves a difficulty that is absent from the simple conception of a philosophical conflict rejected in the remark. Wittgenstein is invoking the possibility that we may be under an illusion, at a reflective level, about how we understand a concept, and it is difficult to comprehend how such a misconception is possible. Before proceeding with this question, I should say something about the second use of ‘language-game’ in the Investigations mentioned before. A language-game in this second sense is a simple model context with the help of which the use of words can be studied. At the beginning of his discussion of seeing-as in the Fragment, section xi, Wittgenstein introduces the notion of a ‘picture-object’ by way of a simple drawing of a face. It consists of a circle with two dots for the eyes and curved lines for mouth and eye brows. A language-game can be compared to such a drawing. Wittgenstein writes: ‘In some respects, I engage with it as with a human face. I can study its expression, can react to it as to the expression of the human face.’ (PPF §119 = PI II: 194f ) A picture-face can be described as happy, sad, serious, stupid, or impish, although it is infinitely simpler than a human face. This is how to think of Wittgenstein’s language-games. They are infinitely simpler than real ways of using language, and yet our understanding and sense of naturalness can be studied with their help, because, here too, we stand in a similar relationship to them as to their real counterparts (cf. Schulte 2004: 27, 35f.). This helps to see how Wittgenstein intends to implicate the person whose practice does not accord with the description given of it. The person is invited to examine his or her own linguistic reactions to the language-games. Wittgenstein’s dismissiveness towards certain types of


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theorizing in philosophy is the flip side of this positive approach to doing philosophy. The Investigations present the philosopher’s dialogue with himself, which will only serve its purpose if in talking to himself he can speak for the reader. Philosophical explanations modeled on the hypothetico-deductive method of science, in contrast, are only answerable to something that is conceived simply as factual. This is implicit in one’s proceeding by advancing theses, postulating unobserved entities, or making generalizations. If this is done in philosophy, it will, of course, seem strange how we could have access to such facts. Philosophical theorizing will then be conceived – indeed most plausibly – as continuous with the kind of theorizing done in natural science. I see no way to argue on behalf of Wittgenstein that this will necessarily amount to nonsense. The point is rather that if it is true that any deeper philosophical problem is a problem about apparently self-evident ways of looking at things, which it does not even occur to us to question, then theorizing won’t simply be what is needed. Wittgenstein uses nothing more definite than ‘conceptual investigations’ to refer to his own philosophical approach (Z §458, RPP I §949). He may also have objected to J. L. Austin’s term ‘linguistic phenomenology’ as a description of his own philosophy (Austin 1979b: 182): ‘It’s true there are phenomenological problems, but there is no phenomenology.’ (RC I, §53) In this late remark, he rejects the term ‘phenomenology’ apparently because of its association with philosophical theorizing. It is, however, not mandatory to associate the idea of a phenomenology with theorizing. Wittgenstein himself does not always do that: ‘Phenomenological analysis (as e.g. Goethe would have it) is analysis of concepts and can neither agree with nor contradict physics.’ (RC II, §16) At the same time, it is not sufficient to think of Wittgenstein’s philosophizing merely as ‘analysis of concepts’. It is a self-directed activity, aiming at a certain form of self-knowledge (cf. Cavell 1979: 146). Although laying emphasis on this aspect runs the risk of prompting all sorts of philosophical kitsch, it is an essential aspect of Wittgenstein’s thinking. I said that the idea of an illusion of understanding is difficult to comprehend. If we are under an illusion about how we understand a concept, why does it not dissolve once we turn our attention to the concept? It is not sufficient to say, as is sometimes done, that our

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understanding of concepts is a practical mastery, which does not imply the possession of knowledge at the reflective level: ‘We can walk about the country quite well, but when forced to make a map, we go wrong.’ (AWL: 43) We may go wrong but just as well we may not. The claim can only be that the first ability does not imply the second. The following remark suggests a more determinate answer to the question about the possibility of an illusion of understanding: The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something – because it is always before one’s eyes.) The real foundations of their inquiry [Forschung] do not strike people at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck them. We fail to be struck by what once seen, is most striking and most powerful. (PI §129)

The Wittgensteinian slogan that ‘nothing is hidden’ (PG: 104, PI §435) may contribute to overlooking the fact that Wittgenstein makes essential reference to things which are hidden through overexposure. Familiarity has a blinding effect. This is a psychological fact without which Wittgenstein’s appeal to the most simple uses of language could hardly become philosophically relevant. What is ‘repressed’ is not introduced as a hypothesis to explain the manifest, as this happens in Freud; it is manifest itself, though not appreciated as deserving proper attention. But which ‘aspects of things’ and ‘foundations of [people’s] inquiry’ could Wittgenstein mean? The German word for ‘inquiry’ is Forschung – a word Wittgenstein never uses for philosophy. This ‘inquiry’ is a science like psychology, mathematics – or anthropology, as in an earlier version of the remark (cf. BT: 419). The ‘foundations’ are not axioms or principles in these sciences, nor need they be something on which their proper functioning is literally based. In a time in which he still found the analogy to psychoanalysis helpful, he wrote: A main job of philosophy is to warn against false comparisons …  similes  on which our way of expressing ourselves is grounded – without us being fully aware of this.


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I think that in this our method is similar to that of psychoanalysis, which also wants to make us conscious of what we are unconscious, thereby rendering it harmless, and I think that this similarity is not merely external. (vW 109: 174, 25 October 1930, transl. B. R.)

With the help of this passage (together with PI §129) it is possible to understand why the illusion might persist even when explicitly attending to the relevant concepts. The first explanatory factor is the philosophical aspiration of giving an explanation of its object and the attitude that goes with the pursuit of this goal. The form of explanation that first enters the mind may introduce a bias in favour of something hidden and/or refined. It is the idea that in philosophy one must come up with some very subtle analysis. The other factor is the simile which remains fixed in our minds when we attend to the relevant concepts while developing such an account. The illusion does not disappear because we still look at the concepts through the lenses of an unexamined conception. This goes some way towards explaining why, by itself, attention to the problematic concepts does not remove the illusion. A more comprehensive list of sources of philosophical perplexities could undoubtedly be given (cf. Baker & Hacker 2005: 277–283). I have not taken into account the more local sources, nor even all the general ones. What I wish to underline is that the factors indicated here are not different, unconnected sources of philosophical illusion but are in play at the same time. The importance of underlining their interconnectedness is that it lessens the danger of backsliding into a dictionary conception of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, the idea that what he is essentially doing is telling us not to confuse this use with that use – something a clever philosophical dictionary could take care of. The crucial question for Wittgenstein is why we are led into these problems (cf. Baker & Hacker 2005: 288). So long as this question is not answered, the philosophical problems won’t be solved.

4 Language and Communication in Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy

The remaining chapters of Part I are devoted to Kant. Generally put, I shall be dealing with the same topics that I have been pursuing in Wittgenstein: (i) the role of language in Kant’s theoretical philosophy; (ii) the notion of metaphysical illusion in his criticism of what he calls ‘dogmatic’ metaphysics; and (iii) Kant’s transcendental idealism. It is tempting to answer the question about the role of language in Kant’s theoretical philosophy in a very simple way. In The Bounds of Sense, Strawson claims: [Kant] nowhere depends upon, or even refers to, the factor on which Wittgenstein, for example, insists so strongly: the social character of our concepts, the links between thought and speech, speech and communication and social communities. (Strawson 1966: 95)

Much in the same vein, Hacker says that ‘[Kant’s] approach is unwaveringly, if abstractly, subjective.’ (Hacker 2012: 11) Hacker refers to Kant’s reflection No. 5058, of which he might have had particularly the first sentence in mind: ‘In transcendental science, everything must be

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_4



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derived from the subject[.]’1 The most eminent embodiment of Kant’s first-personal approach is, for Hacker, the principle that the ‘I think must be able to accompany all my representations’ (B 131). He thinks that this is false: ‘But no “I” need accompany anyone’s own representations. On the other hand, “he”, “she”, or “it” must be capable of accompanying all representations.’ (Hacker 2012: 25) Although his wording does not show it, Hacker is aware of the fact that Kant does not say that the ‘I’ must always actually accompany anyone’s own representations. His point is rather that avowals of personal experience are intelligible only on the supposition that the very same kinds of personal experience can also be ascribed to other people.2 While Hacker’s formulation focuses on personal experience, the quotation from Strawson focuses on thought. They make similar claims concerning their respective topics: we can understand ourselves as thinking only what is shareable with a community, or as experiencing only what is also attributable to other people, while this, supposedly, is entirely neglected by Kant. Considering the fact that Kantian ethics lays so much emphasis on reciprocity, it would indeed be surprising if Kant did not acknowledge the role of community in his theoretical philosophy. In this chapter, I shall be exclusively concerned with thought, turning to sensation only much later (cf. chapter 18). I divide my discussion according to the available textual evidence into the period of the 1780s, on the one hand, and 1790 onwards, on the other. I won’t discuss Kant’s so-called ‘pre-critical’ period. It is in 1790 that Kant makes a particularly explicit statement on the matters we are concerned with. In a publication I shall refer to as ‘On a Discovery’, he asserts: ‘The logicians are by no means correct in defining 1 Hacker seems to take ‘transcendental science’ to refer to the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique, and thus to the centrepiece of Kant’s theoretical philosophy, but this is not the case: ‘In transcendental science, everything must be derived [hergenommen seyn] from the subject, while only some of that is related to objects; hence the dialectic is something that belongs to the nature of the understanding, and a science of that is possible.’ (Ak. XVIII: 75, R 5058, 1776–78) Kant’s talk of ‘the dialectic’ indicates that he has in mind the disciplines of special metaphysics, as transformed through critical philosophy. It is the same ‘science’ about which he says: ‘In transcendental science, the objective is no longer to move forwards but to move backwards.’ (Ak. XVIII: 80, R 5075, 1776– 78, transl. B. R.) Accordingly, I do not think that the passage really illustrates what Hacker wants illustrated. 2 A well-known Strawsonian view, cf. Strawson 1959: 106–111.

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a proposition [Satz] as a judgment expressed in words; for we must also, in thought, use words in judgments which we do not regard as propositions.’ (Entd.: 193f. n.) In his Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, published in 1798, Kant is equally pronounced in this respect. There we read, for example: ‘Thinking is talking to oneself …; consequently it is also listening to oneself inwardly (by means of the reproductive power of the imagination).’ (Anthr.: 192; cf. 127, 155, 167) This passage helps to interpret another, rather sketchy remark from Kant’s posthumously published writings: ‘The fact that a human being not only thinks but is also able to say I think to himself makes him a person. To think is to talk and this is to listen[.]’ (Op. post. I: 103, early 1800s, transl. B. R.)3 The meaning of the last unfinished sentence is not straightforward in German either but is probably intended along the lines of the previously quoted passage from the Anthropology. Finally, in a posthumously published draft of a prize essay, Kant says that the ability to think of oneself, and thus to be at the same time the subject and the object of thought, ‘has as its consequence a total separation from the beasts, to whom we have no reason to attribute the power to say ‘I’ to oneself[.]’ (Forts.: 270, betw. 1793 and June 1795) The parallels with the former passage suggest that Kant really means the ability to say ‘I’ to oneself. Thus, as far as the period from 1790 onwards is concerned, a good case can be made for rejecting Strawson’s suggestion. Textual evidence in Kant’s writings of the 1780s, the period in which his major works were published, is more difficult to find. A corpus that is particularly relevant here consists of his lectures on logic. In one of them, the Vienna Logic from the early 1780s, we find a passage that closely parallels the one quoted above from ‘On a Discovery’: ‘[W]hen logicians say “A proposition [Satz] is a judgement clothed in words” that means nothing, and this definition is good for nothing. For how will they be able to think judgements without words?’ (VL: 934; cf. 812) Forster has challenged the dating of the Vienna Logic, partly on the basis of the present textual parallel: ‘This is exactly the same point [as in ‘On a

3 ‘Daß

der Mensch nicht allein denkt sondern auch zu sich selbst sagen kann ich denke macht ihn zu einer Person. Das Denken ist ein Sprechen u. dieses ein höhren[.]’ (Op. post. I: 103)


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Discovery’], and it is a point one finds nowhere else in Kant. This already suggests a close proximity in date, which would place the Vienna Logic some time around 1790.’ (Forster 2012: 491) He has more reasons for his dating, but only here does he commit an actual mistake. The point that one cannot judge without words does occur in other places, namely, in the Jäsche Logic, the Hechsel Logic – as part of a verbatim overlap with the Vienna Logic – the Pölitz Logic, and the Warsaw Logic.4 The Vienna Logic was indeed originally dated to the period from 1795 to 96 by its editor Gerhard Lehmann (cf. Lehmann 1966: 983). Tillmann Pinder challenged the original dating some thirty years ago, paricularly on the basis of a newly discovered set of lecture notes featuring a partial verbatim overlap with the Vienna Logic. These new lecture notes, the Hechsel Logic and the Hoffmann Logic, carry a date, presumably of their composition and not of the corresponding lectures. The manuscripts were written in autumn and summer of 1782, respectively (cf. Pinder 1987: 80, 105 n. 18). The manuscript of the Hoffmann Logic is lost, but the extracts published in the Akademie-Ausgabe can be matched with parts of the Vienna Logic (cf. VL: 944–952). The Hechsel Logic shows a verbatim overlap over many pages with the Vienna Logic (cf. HL: 384–435). The contents of those parts of the Vienna Logic which do not overlap with the Hechsel Logic are nevertheless closely related to each other. This is perhaps not enough to conclude that they refer either to the same course or to courses that were not separated by too many years, but the difficulty does not affect the dating of the passage invoked by Forster (which is part of the overlap). The date of the Hechsel Logic and other considerations make it most likely that the Vienna Logic was given between 1780–82, which is the time around the publication of the first edition of the Critique (cf. Pinder 1987: 79–89, 105 n. 17). The reasons behind Forster’s interpretation of the relation between thought and language are more representative of the literature than what he says in his digression on the intricate business of dating lecture notes. He attributes a dualism of thought and language to Kant, based on his reading of Kant’s published writings from the 1780s. Forster writes:

4 See

JL: 109 n. 3, HL: 430, PL: 580, 588, WL: 627.

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Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason, as well as in his other two Critiques … scrupulously avoids using such terms as ‘language’, ‘sentence’, and ‘word’ in fundamental explanatory roles, in favour of using such purely psychological terms as ‘thought’, ‘judgement’, ‘concept’, ‘representation’, ‘intuition’, ‘principle’, ‘schema’, ‘idea’, and so on; and moreover, when he defines the latter terms, again avoids using terms which refer to language, instead of employing only psychological ones. Nor does Kant at any point in the Critique of Pure Reason or the other two Critiques accord language anything more than an inessential and subordinate role. (Forster 2012: 488)

It bears repeating that I am concerned with the view that expressibility through language is a necessary condition of thought, not the view that meaning as such consists in the use of words. Nor am I concerned with Kant’s views on sensations and their relation to language and expressive behaviour. Forster is right when he says that the Critique subordinates the notions ‘concept’ and ‘judgement’ to the generic term ‘representation’, and that this is commonly considered as a psychological term (cf. A 320/B 376f.). The subordination is also visible in Kant’s practice of sometimes employing the alternative expression ‘intuitions or concepts’ to gloss the word ‘representation’ (cf., e.g. A 56/B 80, A 68/B 93). The same is true of the notion of ‘judgement’, which at one point is explicitly referred to as ‘the representation of a representation’ (A 68/B 93). The second point Forster is making, that language is viewed as an inessential supplement to thought, may seem to be supported by a quotation from §18 in the second edition: ‘One person combines the representation of a certain word with one thing, another with something else; and the unity of consciousness in that which is empirical is not, with regard to that which is given, necessarily and universally valid.’ (B 140) One person may indeed combine a certain word with one thing and another person with another, but this is trivial. Kant does not say that this is generally the case, nor does he address the question of the possibility of a totally inconsistent word use by one and the same person. The lectures on logic that were published by Benjamin Jäsche in 1800 (during Kant’s lifetime) actually show that the mere absence of a reference to language from the explanation of these key terms is not sufficient to attribute a language-thought dualism to Kant. Kant’s definition of a


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judgement in general in the Jäsche Logic makes no reference to language either: A judgment is the representation [Vorstellung] of the unity of the consciousness of various representations, or the representation of the relation insofar as they constitute a concept. (JL: 101, §17)

In a gloss on his notion of a Satz, however, Kant states that expressibility through language is necessary for judgement: On the distinction between problematic and assertoric judgment rests the true distinction between judgments and propositions [Sätze], which is customarily placed, wrongly, in the mere expression through words, without which one simply could not judge at all. (JL: 109, §30, n. 3)

This suggests that it is a matter of course for Kant that judgement is tied to language. Thus, although language is not invoked in the explanations of these terms in the Critique either, it does not follow that Kant considered linguistic expressibility as merely accessory and inessential. Moreover, it is not strictly true that Kant generally ‘avoids using terms which refer to language’ in important passages. As will be seen, the significance of the passages that can be found compensates for their scarcity to a large extent. My first quotation comes from the Transcendental Deduction of the categories in the first edition. The passage begins with an illustration of the point that reproduction in imagination requires appearances that are already subject to regularity as far as their matter is concerned. This illustration ends with a semicolon. Much depends on how one reads the passage after the semicolon, whose interpretation is constrained by the need to make the first sentence of the new paragraph a natural continuation from the previous one: If cinnabar were now red, now black, now light now heavy, if a human being were now changed into this animal shape, now into that one, if on the longest day the land were covered now with fruits, now with ice and snow, then my empirical imagination would never get the opportunity to think of heavy cinnabar on the occasion of the representation of the colour red; or if a certain word were attributed now to this thing, now to that, or if one

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and the same thing were sometimes called this, sometimes that, without the governance of a certain rule to which the appearances are already subjected in themselves, then no empirical synthesis of reproduction could take place. There must therefore be something that itself makes possible this reproduction of the appearances by being the a priori ground of a necessary unity of them. (A 100f.)

Synthesis of reproduction is an achievement of the power of imagination; it is performed immediately on appearances which, in turn, are already subject to a regularity as regards their matter. This regularity would also be something that ‘makes possible this reproduction of the appearances’, but it cannot be what Kant has in mind in the last sentence, as it is not a priori. What he has in mind must be related to the unchanging consciousness of oneself, which he calls ‘transcendental apperception’, the only element in Kant’s doctrine which can endow empirical synthesis with a necessary unity. If this is true, the word ‘therefore’ in the last sentence has to refer to a change in topic in the foregoing paragraph. I suggest that the change comes after the semicolon, not least because it would be bizarre to make the same point as before by invoking the arbitrariness of words. Kant suggests a certain equivalence between a failure of a transcendental action of the mind and a failure of consistently referring to and describing things through language, since both would have the result that ‘no empirical synthesis of reproduction could take place’. The next passage I wish to consider is found in the appendix to the Transcendental Analytic on the ‘amphiboly of concepts of reflection’. It is a remarkable passage not only for the role it ascribes to communicability through a language but also for its subversion of Kant’s usual talk of the unknowability of things in themselves (cf. chapter 6): Matter is substantia phaenomenon. What pertains to it internally I seek in all parts of space that it occupies and in all effects that it carries out, and which can certainly always be only appearances of outer sense. I therefore have nothing absolutely but only comparatively internal, which itself in turn consists of outer relations. Yet the absolutely internal in matter, according to pure understanding, is a mere fancy, for it is in no way an object for the pure understanding; the transcendental object, however, which might be the ground of this appearance that we call matter, is a mere something,


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about which we would not understand anything even if someone could tell us. For we cannot understand anything except that which has something corresponding to our words in intuition. (A 277/B 333, transl. alt.)

Kant says that our understanding depends on something in intuition that corresponds ‘to our words’, not ‘to our concepts’. This evidently relates to the situation he pictures in the preceding sentence, namely that of someone’s purporting to tell us what the transcendental object is. This interlocutor is apparently an intelligent, non-human being whose cognitive capacities reach things in themselves. However, instead of emphasizing that this being would know something that is beyond our reach, Kant repudiates the idea that we understand what we are imagining at all: If the complaints “That we have no insight into the inner in things” are to mean that we do not understand through pure reason what the things that appear to us might be in themselves, then they are entirely improper and irrational; for they would have us be able to cognize things, thus intuit them, even without senses, consequently they would have it that we have a faculty of cognition entirely distinct from the human not merely in degree but even in intuition and kind, and thus that we ought to be not humans but beings that we cannot even say are possible, let alone how they are constituted. (A 277f./B 333f.)

Accordingly, we are not lacking some kind of knowledge of the essences of things, which those beings do possess; we are unable to make enough sense of all of this to answer the question negatively if taken as a question of fact. What we can say is that we do not ‘know’ things in themselves – we do not apply ‘know’ to things considered in themselves but to things considered as appearances. The question dividing Kant’s commentators is whether his view is that our knowledge is not such that it provides insight into the inner essence of things, which does not commit him to the existence of a corresponding realm of reality, or whether he means to say that there is something to know about the inner essence to which we necessarily lack access. In the following passage from Cavell, Kant is understood in the second way:

4 Language and Communication in Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy


If his similarity to Kant is seen, the differences light up the nature of the problems Wittgenstein sets himself. For Wittgenstein it would be an illusion not only that we do know things-in-themselves, but equally an illusion that we do not (crudely, because the concept of “knowing something as it really is” is being used without a clear sense, apart from its ordinary language game). (Cavell 1969b: 65f.)

According to this interpretation, Kant did not realize, while Wittgenstein did, that the seeming unknowability of things in themselves really is a case where ‘to know’ has no application. There is, however, more ambiguity in Kant than this allows for. Cavell’s contrast may not only separate Kant from Wittgenstein but perhaps also Kant from Kant. Moreover, ‘knowing something as it is in itself ’ cannot be paraphrased as ‘knowing something as it really is’. Cavell imputes a substance-metaphysics to Kant and an unreality-of-relations doctrine; he does not reckon with the possibility that Kant may be a realist about relations but not about absolute substances. More recently, Adrian Moore has made a similar suggestion. Kant, he says, was concerned with the limits of thought and of reality but, unlike the later Wittgenstein, conceived of these limits as limitations (cf. Moore 2007: 182; Moore 2013: 251–254). A limitation, I take it, states a fact about what we can and what we cannot do. Things at the other side of the line are represented as unknowable, unsayable, or whatever the case may be. A limitation is set in a domain that is represented as uniform, such as that of things to be known; it excludes a genuine possibility for us. To set a limit, in contrast, is to say that the concept of that which we say we can or cannot do has limited application. Things on the other side of the line are not ‘knowable’, rather than unknowable – or not ‘sayable’, rather than unsayable, and so on. A limit is set between things that are representeded as heterogenous (cf. Moore 2007: 176, 178; Moore 2013: 240f.). Kant does not always behave in accordance with this contrast. In the passage where he mentions the idea of beings who intuit ‘without senses’, he clearly conceives of the contrast between ‘appearance’ and ‘thing in itself ’ as a limit, not as a limitation, of human knowledge. The next passage that I wish to quote is from an early stage of the Transcendental Dialectic:


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In the great wealth of our language the thinking mind nevertheless often finds itself at a loss for an expression that exactly suits its concept, and lacking this it is able to make itself rightly intelligible neither to others nor even to itself. (A 312/B 368)

There is some ambiguity in this passage about the relation between thought and its expression. Kant’s wording seems to presuppose the existence of a concept which a linguistic expression may or may not suit. On the other hand, the concept without the expression cannot become intelligible even to oneself. In a reflection on logic, Kant chooses similar language: ‘We need concepts not only to become intelligible to others but also to ourselves. And this capacity of word use is language[.]’ (Ak. XVI: 839, R 3444, transl. B. R.)5 Thus, at a certain level, I am in no better position than others to understand what I mean, which is a familiar Wittgesteinian theme (cf. Anthr.: 192, PI §504). My last quotation comes from the Doctrine of Method; it relates instructively to the passage from the ‘amphiboly’ section quoted above: The touchstone of whether taking something to be true is conviction or mere persuasion is therefore, externally, the possibility of communicating it and finding it to be valid for the reason of every human being to take it to be true; for in that case there is at least a presumption that the ground of the agreement of all judgments, regardless of the difference among the subjects, rests in the common ground namely the object[.] (A 820f./B 848f.; cf. Anthr.: 219, Ak. XI: 515)

Kant is concerned here with the contrast between subjective grounds for holding something to be true, which can be the result of persuasion, and objective grounds, which alone can be communicated to others and agreed upon. A variant of this principle can be found in the ‘Hechsel Logic’: ‘Nothing is objective that cannot be communicated.’ (HL: 373f., transl. B. R.) Kant refers to the possibility of communicating a judgement and finding agreement as a criterion for its objectivity, without identifying objectivity with general agreement (cf. KpV: 12f.). This principle is

5 The

reflection may have been written in the second half of the 1770s or in the 1780s.

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probably in the background of the thought experiment that a non-human being that is capable of intuiting things in themselves could tell us about them. This inner constitution of things is a fancy, precisely because any supposed knowledge of it could not be communicated to us, just as the idea of a non-human being that would be capable of intuiting things without senses is a fancy (cf. A 277/B 333). In brief, whatever could have a tendency to show that an intelligent being communicates to us how things are in themselves would at the same time have a tendency to show that no objective fact is communicated to us. As far as I have been concerned in this chapter with concepts in Kant, I have been concerned with them as pertaining to judgement. Not enough has been said to draw determinate consequences concerning the role that Kant assigns to the pure concepts of the understanding, or categories, in transcendental synthesis. According to Kant, the categories are required not only for the unity of judgement but also for the original connection of representations: ‘The same function that gives unity to the different representations in a judgement also gives unity to the mere synthesis of different representations in an intuition, which, expressed generally, is called the pure concept of the understanding.’ (A 79f./B 104f.; cf. B 162 n.) It might be argued that Kant does not take linguistic expressibility to be necessary for the categories to function in this non-judgemental way at all levels of synthesis. An extreme form of this view would consist in the claim that the categories, insofar as they are operative in synthesis, are prior not only to language but also to ordinary concepts and ordinary intuitions. It should be noted, however, that it is not easy to rule out the possibility that in Kant expressibility in language is also a necessary condition of transcendental synthesis. This is because a lower-level synthesis is not possible without the next, higher-level synthesis, which means that if for the highest-level synthesis expressibility in language is a necessary condition, it will be necessary for all levels. Accordingly, to deny that the expressibility condition extends to transcendental synthesis is a fairly strong claim. I conclude that it is false that Kant ‘nowhere depends upon, or even refers to … the links between thought and speech, speech and communication and social communities’ in his theoretical philosophy


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(Strawson 1966: 95). The ‘cinnabar’ passage may even suggest that Kant is prepared to substitute ‘word’ for ‘concept’ at a certain level of transcendental synthesis, although the point is not sufficiently developed in the text to reach a robust conclusion. More important, no basic incongruity of philosophical paradigms has emerged between Kant and Wittgenstein. Kant’s view that we need language even to become intelligible to ourselves speaks against placing him in a mentalist tradition, as most Wittgensteininspired critics are intent on doing. For present purposes (cf. chapter 14), it is enough to claim that Kant places an expressibility condition on (judgemental) thought, rather than argue for the stronger conclusion that thought is inherently linguistic for him. I do, however, think that a reasonably good case could be made even for the latter attribution.

5 Transcendental Illusion in the First Antinomial Conflict

In their criticism of metaphysics, Kant and Wittgenstein invoke elaborated conceptions of philosophical illusion. ‘The essential thing about metaphysics’, says Wittgenstein, is ‘that the difference between factual and conceptual investigations is not clear to it.’ (RPP I §949) The error, he says, arises from the fact that, in philosophy, ‘[w]e don’t look at the actual language-game’. ‘We look at the words … and supplement them by an imaginary language-game, a mirage of a language[.]’ (WCL: 11, May 1938) The most direct illustration of this type of philosophical criticism will be given only later, in a chapter on Wittgenstein’s private language argument (cf. chapter 18). For now, I only wish to identify a general idea shared by the two philosophers in their diagnoses of the mirages of metaphysical discourse. In Wittgenstein, this idea is expressed in the following way: ‘We trace our form of expression again and again & think having drawn the thing. – Through an optical illusion we seem to see in the inner of things – what is drawn on our glasses.’ (vW 142: 115, transl. B. R.) It is a striking fact about Kant that he should have a term to designate the very misapprehension that is described here, namely ‘transcendental illusion’. Errors from transcendental illusion, or ‘transcendent misuses’ of concepts, as one might say (cf. Dyck 2014: 82), subdivide according to the

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_5



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three disciplines of special metaphysics: rational psychology, cosmology, and theology. This chapter deals with the illusion in the first antinomial conflict of rational cosmology, while a later chapter will look at the illusion in the fourth A-paralogism of rational psychology (cf. chapter 11). The transcendental ideal, on the other hand, won’t be dealt with at all, which means that I shall not try to make a case for transcendental illusion in rational theology. The reason is that it is difficult to overlook and state convincingly how the illusion is operative in the attempts of rational theology to prove God’s existence.1 I am satisfied if the notion of transcendental illusion can be made clear in more palpable cases. A much-disputed claim of Kant’s doctrine of transcendental illusion is that the intellectual mistakes induced by it can be avoided, although the illusion cannot. The basic, and also most important, explanation Kant gives of the illusion occurs in the introduction to the Dialectic: Transcendental illusion … does not cease even though it is uncovered and its nullity is seen into by transcendental criticism (e.g., the illusion in the proposition “The world must have a beginning in time”). The cause of this is that in our reason (considered subjectively as a human faculty of cognition) there lie fundamental rules and maxims for its use, which look entirely like objective principles, and through them it comes about that the subjective necessity of a certain connection of our concepts on behalf of the understanding is taken for an objective necessity, the determination of things in themselves. (A 297/B 353; cf. Anthr.: 149)

I take it that by ‘the subjective necessity’ of a conceptual connection Kant just means that it belongs to our representation of the object. The necessity of this connection is erroneously viewed as a necessity in what Kant calls the ‘thing in itself ’. What he might mean by this expression and its contrastive term, ‘appearance’, will be considered in a chapter on its own (cf. chapter 6). Although no mention of language is made in the passage, it would be difficult to explain what sorts of things ‘entirely look like objective principles’ if not the linguistic expressions of those rules and maxims. A remark by Wittgenstein can serve to bring out the nature of 1 For

a good introduction, see Allison 2004: 396–412, 419–421.

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metaphysical error from transcendental illusion: ‘One predicates of the thing what lies in the mode of representation.’ (PI §104) What kind of rules and maxims is Kant alluding to? To determine a cognition provided by the understanding by reason alone, Kant says, is to derive it from other premises (cf. A 336/B 393, A 412/B 438). This derivation is concerned with the series that goes ‘upwards’ from a given proof to a proof of its premises, rather than ‘downwards’ to further consequences. The regressive procedure of searching for premisses from which a given cognition can be derived, ideally to a premise that requires no further derivation, adopts a maxim to which I shall refer to as ‘P1 ’, following Michelle Grier (cf. Grier 2001: 119, 122). Kant formulates the maxim in this way: ‘[T]he proper principle of reason in general (in its logical use) is to find the unconditioned for conditioned cognitions of the understanding, with which its unity will be completed.’ (A 307/B 364) He continues: But this logical maxim cannot become a principle of pure reason unless we assume [P2 ] that when the conditioned is given, then so is the whole series of conditions subordinated one to the other, which is itself unconditioned, also given (i.e., contained in the object and its connection). (A 307f./B 364)

I wish to draw attention to the shift in terminology from ‘logical maxim’ to ‘principle of pure reason’ in this quotation, which I take to be crucial. Shortly after this passage, Kant makes clear that he does not believe that assumption P2 can ever be warranted. Anticipating his conclusion, he announces that whether … this need of reason [to bring the highest possible unity of reason into our cognition] has, through a misunderstanding, been taken for a transcendental principle of reason, which overhastily postulates such an unlimited completeness in the series of conditions in the objects themselves … will be our concern in the transcendental dialectic[.]’ (A 309/B 365f.)

But if it is true that, as Kant says above, the ‘logical maxim cannot become a principle of pure reason unless we assume that when the conditioned is given, then so is the whole series’, and it is true that this assumption


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cannot be legitimately made, then we are in a fix. Surely, one of these claims must give way. Let us ask, first, why P2 should be assumed, and, second, what stands in the way of assuming it. On the exegetical assumptions that P2 can be legitimately made and that it is necessary for the logical maxim to be employed, the first question is extremely difficult to answer. In contrast, it presents no serious difficulty if these assumptions are not made. It is indeed possible to read the quotation in this way, if ‘principle of pure reason’ is given special weight relative to a mere ‘logical maxim’. This can be done by interpreting the passage as saying that the assumption is necessary, if the purely logical maxim is to become a principle by which to bring about metaphysical knowledge. A few pages earlier, Kant had explained ‘principles’ in the strict sense as ‘synthetic cognitions from concepts’ (A 301/B 357f.). This idea appears dubious, since it is difficult to see how Kant could accept it, but it may fit the use of ‘principle’ in our formulation above (i.e. A 307f./B 364), precisely because of this dubiousness. The second question has a straightforward answer: the assumption cannot be made because it leads to the antinomial conflicts of rational cosmology. In Kant’s view, there is a way to avoid these conflicts, namely, by adopting transcendental idealism. This accounts for Kant’s claim that the intellectual mistakes prompted by transcendental illusion can be avoided. Grier reads Kant’s formulation in a way that allows her to maintain that the assumption P2 is necessary for the use of the maxim. I won’t present Grier’s reading in detail but only say what it is that I disagree with. She correctly notes that transcendental ideas are indispensable for the use of logical maxims. Then, however, she simply transfers the indispensability claim to the principle P2 .2 There is no denying that the idea of a given totality of conditions of the conditioned is indispensable (cf. A 415/B 443). The assumption P2 , however, cannot become indispensable as an assumption, just because the idea of an absolute totality of conditions is indispensable as a representation. Moreover, it is unclear why the use of the logical maxim should depend on a metaphysical assumption

2 See

Grier 2001: 126 (including note 43), 275, 278.

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at all. There is no general difficulty about following an instruction for the sole reason that doing so is part of a given procedure. The mere use of a logical maxim, such as P1 , does not force any metaphysical tenets on the user. To learn more about the mechanism of transcendental illusion in the antinomy of pure reason, things have to be examined up close. The example Kant gives in his elementary explanation of transcendental illusion quoted at the beginning of this chapter is ‘The world must have a beginning in time’ (A 297/B 353). This is the temporal thesis of the first antinomial conflict (cf. A 426/B 454). Following Zeljko Loparic, I shall be talking of ‘extensive quanta’, which subdivide into spatial quanta, qs , and temporal quanta, qt , that is, portions of space, or of time (cf. Loparic 1990: 281). How the antinomial conflict is supposed to get off the ground, if we deal with space, is less clear than in the case of time. With regard to time, the distinction between progression and regression is straightforward. One can either proceed from the present moment into the future, or go back into the past, which latter corresponds to the regressive direction. In the case of space, all directions are on a par. There seem to be no ‘regression’ and no ‘progression’. Kant addresses the problem where he notes that ‘regressus and progressus in space appear to be the same’ (A 413/B 439f.). He offers the following solution: ‘Nonetheless, because a part of space is not given through another part but is only bounded by it, we must to that extent regard every bounded space as also conditioned, presupposing another space as the condition of its boundary, and so forth.’ (A 413/B 440) This can be made more vivid by imagining a cubical quantum of space enclosed in a larger cubical quantum, in the way that one of the figures constituting a Russian doll is enclosed within the next, larger figure. This spatial quantum is in turn enclosed in a yet larger spatial quantum of the same shape, and so on. For a transcendental realist about space and time, it is inoffensive to refer to the whole series of ‘conditions’ of a given spatial quantum, qs , meaning the series of spatial quanta each of which is bounded by the next, as something objectively given. The same holds for time. Accordingly, the ‘totality of spatial conditions’ ws of qs is the unconditioned series of spatial quanta relative to qs , and the ‘totality of temporal conditions’ wt of qt is the unconditioned series of temporal


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quanta relative to qt (cf. Loparic 1990: 281). The initial extensive quanta, qs and qt , are not included in the series, because in the context of Kant’s antinomies we are interested in conditionals such as, ‘If a particular spatial quantum qs is given, then the absolute totality of spatial conditions ws of qs is also given’, or more generally, for any extensive quantum: if it is given, then the absolute totality of its conditions is also given, which is a particularized version of assumption P2 (cf. Loparic 1990: 284). Juxtaposing the claims of rational cosmology as thesis and antithesis is what Kant calls his ‘sceptical method’ (A 424/B 451). It is a method that aims to identify the basic assumptions of the debate. I proceed to Kant’s statement of the first antinomial conflict: Thesis The world has a beginning in time, and in space it is also enclosed in boundaries. (A 426/B 454) Antithesis The world has no beginning in time and no bounds in space, but is infinite with regard to both time and space. (A 427/B 455)

The disjunction of thesis and antithesis may be formalized as F w ∨ I w, using F x for ‘is finite’ and I x for ‘is infinite’ (cf., e.g. Allison 2004: 367, Caranti 2007: 47). But this way of rendering the disjunction fails to capture the logical connection of ‘is finite’ and ‘is infinite’, since F x is a predicate and I x is another predicate. Michael Wolff suggests that in the context of Kant’s doctrine of dialectical oppositions, it is crucial that formally no distinction is made between negative judgements and judgements with negative predicates (cf. Wolff 1981: 51 n.). He renders the disjunction simply as F w ∨ ¬F w, using F x for ‘is finite’. This receives textual support from a passage where Kant says that ‘in a transcendental logic infinite judgments [i.e., judgments with a negative predicate] must also be distinguished from affirmative ones, even though in general logic they are rightly included with the latter and do not constitute a special member of a classification’ (A 71f./B 97). Formal logic is supposed to abstract from differences in the relation to the objects of discourse, while transcendental logic does not.

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In spite of this, Loparic thinks that a notation for transcendental logic can be given. He writes the disjunction of thesis and antithesis as F wt ∨ (¬F wt ∧ F  wt ), using the logical symbol ‘¬’ for propositional negation and the prime mark written after the predicate for predicate negation. The subscript character t stands for time, and s for space (cf. Loparic 1990: 285f., 292). Accordingly, F  wt is a limitative proposition, stating that the totality of temporal quanta is infinite, rather than not finite. Loparic’s terminology of ‘predicative’ versus ‘propositional negation’ may not accord with Kant’s views of the matter, but I shall adhere to his terminology, for it is clear that some such contrast underlies his addition of the half sentence to the antithesis quoted above. Apparently, it is not redundant for Kant to add ‘but is infinite with regard to both time and space’ (A 427/B 455). He elaborates on this point in the following passage: [I]f I say that as regards space either the world is infinite or it is not infinite (non est infinitus), then if the first proposition is false, its contradictory opposite, “the world is not infinite,” must be true. Through it I would rule out only an infinite world, without positing another one, namely a finite one. But if it is said that the world is either infinite or finite (notinfinite), then both propositions could be false. For then I regard the world as determined in itself regarding its magnitude, since in the opposition I not only rule out its infinitude, and with it, the whole separate existence of the world, but I also add a determination of the world, as a thing in itself, which might likewise be false, if, namely, the world were not given at all as a thing in itself, and hence, as regards its magnitude, neither as infinite nor as finite. (A 503f./B 531f.)

On Kant’s understanding, a negation is either opposed to the affirmation in a purely logical sense, or it is opposed to the reality of something, whose quantity it sets to zero (cf. Ak. XVIII: 363f., R 5826, 1783–84). The second is really an affirmation in disguise (cf. VL: 930). A purely ‘logical’ negation leaves it open whether or not the subject should be included under the same kind of thing as is expressed in the affirmation. This is markedly different from Wittgenstein’s understanding of negation (cf. chapter 1). ‘The world has no beginning in time’, for example, is a logical negation that leaves it open whether the world as it is in itself is


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determined in magnitude at all. The negative proposition is true if and only if the world is determined in itself as infinite, or if it is a thing that is not determined in itself at all. A logical negation does not ‘posit’ a finite world, it only avoids the error that would consist in affirming that it is infinite (cf. A 72/B 97; Loparic 1990: 292f.). This is why Kant says that ‘reality … can be thought only through an affirmative judgment’ (A 246). We may note in passing that, on this understanding of negation, it is also correct to deny that we know things in themselves even if there is nothing to be known. The passage also suggests that a weaker claim is made with ¬F  wt, s than with F  wt, s . The first might be formulated as ‘It is not the case that the world is infinite’; the second as ‘The world is not-infinite’, which is equivalent to ‘The world is finite’. This proposition implies ‘It is not the case that the world is infinite’, but is not implied by it. This is how Loparic defines the sign for predicative negation; F  w entails ¬F w, while ¬F w does not entail F  w (cf. Loparic 1990: 293f.). In the passage quoted above, Kant notes that ‘if it is said that the world is either infinite or finite (not-infinite), then both propositions could be false’ (A 504/B 532). The negation of ‘The world is finite’, ¬F w, does not entail the truth of ‘The world is infinite’, F  w, which therefore can be false, when ¬F w is true. A formal approach such as Loparic’s has essential limitations as a tool of criticism. To see this, let us consider the following statement in Kant: If one regards the two propositions, “The world is infinite in magnitude,” “The world is finite in magnitude,” as contradictory opposites, then one assumes that the world (the whole series of appearances) is a thing in itself. (A 504/B 532)

These two propositions can be regarded as contradictory opposites. Kant could not say that if the dogmatic metaphysician regards them in this way, he makes a wrong use of the prefix. For if we represent him as using F  w as if it were to be entailed by ¬F w, contrary to its true definition, the illusion attaching to his proof is an easily discernible logical illusion rather than a transcendental one (cf. A 296f./B 353). If, on the other hand, we represent him as defining the concept of a world, w, in a way that allows him to introduce the mutual entailment of ¬F w and F  w as a

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theorem, there is nothing wrong with deriving ‘The world is infinite’ from the falsity of ‘The world is finite’. Thus, the notation is unable to capture the error we are interested in, the one that is induced by transcendental illusion. As Wolff notes, making contrary opposites into contradictory ones by assuming something about the objects we are talking about is not problematic as such. If, for example, the opposition is one between good-smelling things and not good-smelling things, one can turn the opposition into a contradictory one by restricting the domain of discourse to things that have a smell. What is problematic about transcendental realism is the way in which this is done, the assumptions it makes about the objects in question (cf. Wolff 1981: 48–50). This is not entirely lost on Loparic, as he goes on to note that the deeper root of the first antinomial conflict lies in the definitions of its basic terms, that is, their meanings (cf. Loparic 1990: 281, 285). It is instructive to go through Loparic’s definitions of the terms employed in the temporal conflict; they are reproduced here in slightly modified form: (DF1 ) An absolute totality of conditions of any given extensive quantum q is an actual totality of conditions that is not conditioned by further extensive quanta. (DF2 ) A temporal world wt is an absolute totality of temporal conditions of any given temporal quantum qt . (DF3 ) wt is finite, if and only if it contains a quantity of parts which is less than or equal to a given number. (DF4 ) wt is infinite, if and only if it contains a quantity of parts which is not less than nor equal to any given number. Just as expected, the third and fourth definitions explain ‘finite’ and ‘infinite’ as contradictory opposites, based on the first two. This means that there won’t be any logical error involved in deriving from the negation of ‘The world is finite in magnitude’ that it is infinite. It thus becomes possible to articulate how the disjunction of the antinomy hangs together with a particularized conditional P2 (cf. Loparic 1990: 283–285, 295). From the conditional, ‘For any extensive quantum it holds that if it is given, then the absolute totality of its conditions is also given’, together


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with the unassuming premise that there are extensive quanta given in experience, it can be derived that the absolute totality of temporal (or spatial) conditions must also be given. If a term like ‘temporal world’ is taken to possess objective reality, then so do the propositions either that the absolute totality of temporal conditions is finite, or that it is infinite. If, in addition, the absolute totality is taken to be ‘given’ in the same sense as an extensive quantum in experience is given, it becomes possible to demonstrate, according to Kant, that if the absolute totality of conditions is not finite, then it is infinite; and if it is not infinite, then it is finite. This, he claims, happens in the proofs of the first antinomial conflict (cf. A 426f./B 454f.). We have thus been led back to the conditional whose deceptive appearance is at the root of the antinomy of pure reason, according to Kant: The entire antinomy of pure reason rests on this dialectical argument: If the conditioned is given, then the whole series of all conditions for it is also given; now objects of senses are given as conditioned; consequently, etc. Through this syllogism, whose major premise seems so natural and evident, a corresponding number of cosmological ideas are introduced, in accordance with the difference of the conditions (in the synthesis of appearances), insofar as they constitute a series, which postulate an absolute totality of these series and thereby put reason into an unavoidable conflict with itself. (A 497/B 525)

The thought is indeed quite natural. An empirically bounded extensive quantum, or whatever element is combined into a series, requires something else by which it is bounded, or conditioned. The same can be said about that something by which the first element is conditioned, and in turn about the latter’s condition, and so on. Since the first element is objectively real, so must be the conditions. As Henry Allison emphasizes, the first antinomial conflict begins with an immanent object, which then quickly becomes transcendent (cf. Allison 2004: 359). We are confronted with ‘principles that actually incite us to tear down all those boundary posts … of the territory in which alone the pure understanding is allowed its play’ (A 296/B 352). If we are dealing with appearances, Kant

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diagnoses, ‘we cannot say with the same meaning that if the conditioned is given, then all the conditions (as appearances) for it are also given’ (A 499/B 527). The context in which the illusion arises is one in which an empirical use of concepts inevitably prompts certain uses of ‘all’ and ‘given’ that are not readily understood. The model to which one is naturally drawn is that the infinitely long series is given in the same sense as the visible part of it, only that its end is infinitely far away, as in Wittgenstein’s example of an infinite row of trees (cf. PR: 166, 306f.). Kant suggests resolving the conflict by introducing a conception of a regress in a series that is neither finite nor commits us to the idea of an actual totality of infinite conditions. It ascends indeterminately far from a given member of a series to the respective next member, while none of the members of the series is ‘the last’ (or ‘first’). This is what he calls a ‘regress in indefinitum’; it is a regress by which to determine the object in experience, not a regress that says what the object is in itself (cf. A 510/B 538). It usually goes unmentioned in the literature that Kant’s solution is developed in a passage that follows the clue of what one can rightly say: One can rightly say of a straight line that it could be extended to infinity, and here the distinction between the infinite and a progress of indeterminate length (progressus in indefinitum) would be an empty subtlety. For although when it is said, “Draw the line” it obviously sounds more correct to add in indefinitum than if it were said in infinitum, because the first means no more than “Extend it as far as you want,” but the second means “You ought never to stop extending it” (which is not at all intended here); yet if we are talking only about what can be done, then the first expression is entirely correct, for you could always make it greater, to infinity. (A 511/B 539)

A little later, he says that ‘if only one member of a series is given, from which the regress to an absolute totality is first of all to proceed, then only an indeterminate kind of regress (in indefinitum) takes place’ (A 512f./B 540f.). The only argument we are given in favour of the correctness of the conception of a regress in indefinitum in the context of the first antinomial conflict is its ability to avoid the conflict. What


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can rightly be said about the drawing of a line, can also be rightly said about any regress from a given member of a series. The first antinomial conflict is crucially a matter of the definitions, and thus the meanings, of the terms involved. This is what has led Loparic to refer to transcendental logic as ‘a priori semantics’. He proposes to view transcendental realism as bad a priori semantics, which suggests, conversely, that transcendental idealism is a more accurate a priori semantics (cf. Loparic 1990: 295f.). ‘A priori semantics’ may not be the best designation for Kant’s approach, which is not so much a theory of meaning than a theory of content. He is centrally concerned with the question of what it is for claims in metaphysics to be objective, or truth-apt. As the contrast between ‘in itself ’ and ‘as appearance’ is explained by Wolff, it refers to a contrast between two types of second-order determinations that specify the way in which other determinations apply to the subject of a judgement (cf. Wolff 1981: 52). To consider something ‘as appearance’ is to allow the application of a special range of metaphysical concepts in knowledge claims, only if predicates relating to our sensibility are coapplicable to the subject, or to things to which it stands in determinable relations. Kant’s diagnosis of transcendent metaphysical claims is not that they lack intelligibility but that their component terms lack connection to experiential concepts. In other words, his typical criticism of metaphysical discourse, as he knew it, is not that it is nonsensical, but that it is empty (cf. Fichant 2008: 90). ∗

It is not my view that Wittgenstein, other than Kant, would generally reject metaphysical propositions as nonsensical (cf. chapter 1). In the remainder of this chapter, I wish to draw another contrast. On Kant’s view, the first antinomial conflict yields an argument not only against a philosophical position but also in favour of one, namely, transcendental idealism. On the view I attribute to Wittgenstein, it is doubtful that it could yield the latter conclusion. This is, of course, dependent on what transcendental idealism is taken to be. I have implied an answer to the question by invoking an explanation by Wolff, but before this can become

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my official view more needs to be said. At this point, I wish to treat the question of what transcendental idealism is as yet awaiting an answer. To begin with, there is considerable convergence in Kant’s and Wittgenstein’s views on the infinity of space and time. They certainly share the view ‘that there cannot be an infinite contingency’, as has been noted by Adrian Moore (Moore 1992: 480). This is part of what can be gleaned from the following passages: It seems to me to be nonsense to say that there is an infinite number of objects in a space, as it were, accidentally. But I can, of course, imagine intentionally an infinite law (or infinite rule) by which something new is invariably produced – ad infinitum – but of course only what a rule can produce, namely, constructions. (vW 105: 23, 1929, transl. B. R.) If we ask “What constitutes the infinity of time?” the reply will be: “That no day is the last, that each day is followed by another”. … this is simply an assertion concerning the grammar of our determinations of time. (PR: 309; cf. 163f.)

The second passage gives an elucidation of the infinity of time that is evocative of Kant’s notion of a progress in indefinitum. The notion of ‘an assertion concerning the grammar of our determinations of time’ enters the picture at the same point where that of a regulative principle enters the picture in Kant (cf. A 517/B 545–A 520/B 548). These are not wholly different things. A rule of grammar can be stated as an instruction. It is even very common to do so, and a ‘regulative principle’ in Kant is, of course, nothing else. A grammatical rule is distinguished from a statement of fact, just as is a regulative principle. Statements of fact are concerned with how things are, while grammatical rules and regulative principles concern what we do; they are normative, not descriptive. In order to sharpen the contrast between grammatical rules and regulative principles one would have to look at their roles in their respective settings. This is not a task that will be broached here. Kant’s indirect argument for transcendental idealism in the Dialectic has yet to be stated. The first premise of the argument asserts that transcendental realism and transcendental idealism are exhaustive alternatives. If transcendental realism holds, the world is given either as a


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finite or an infinite totality. Since both alternatives can be disproved, the world is not given either as a finite or an infinite totality. It follows that transcendental realism is false, and thus transcendental idealism is true (cf. A 506f./B 534f.). This argument has been questioned on various grounds. Some commentators have argued that transcendental realism does not imply that the world is either a finite or an infinite absolute totality. But for this to have force, one would have to show that no interpretation of the doctrine implies this. If an interpretation can be given which does, this will at the same time be a good reason to think that it is some such view that Kant had in mind. Alternatively, one might reject the exhaustiveness of the alternative between transcendental realism and transcendental idealism, which appears too strong a claim. This is actually more difficult to reject than might first be obvious. There are very general and yet interesting notions of transcendental realism, whose relevance cannot be easily dismissed (cf. chapter 19). The point of attack suggested by the following passages from Wittgenstein is a different one: But why is it easier to imagine life without end than an endless series in space? Somehow, it’s because we simply take the endless life as never complete, whereas the infinite series in space ought, we feel, already exist as a whole. Let’s imagine a man whose life goes back for an infinite time and who says to us: ‘I’m just writing down the last digit of π , and it’s a 2’. Every day of his life he has written down a digit, without ever having begun; he has just finished. This seems utter nonsense, and a reductio ad absurdum of the concept of an infinite totality. (PR: 165f., §145)

To make this tale more analogous to the way Kant states the proof of the temporal thesis in the first antinomial conflict, let us take ‘the last digit’ to mean the last digit before the comma of π in decimal notation (3,14159…), which consequently is a 1. This is the digit written down at the present moment by the man in Wittgenstein’s modified tale. That man has always ever worked his way towards it and finally arrives at writing it down, which means having written down all the places after

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the comma of π . By a ‘reductio ad absurdum’, ad-absurdum-Führung in German, Wittgenstein does not mean a formal proof. We have done nothing more than imagined a situation where someone says that he has written down all the after-comma digits of π . It is a little piece of fiction designed to bring out the absurdity of a concept, and this, Wittgenstein says elsewhere, is nothing that can be proved by formal argument (cf. PR: 53, §4). According to this view, a formal argument like that of the first antinomial conflict could only be the clothing of something that is unintelligible in the first place – a way of expounding the incoherence in question. As it turns out, we did not know in the first place what we were supposing as an actual infinite totality, or as the genesis of the world from an empty time.3 According to this view, nothing metaphysically interesting follows. Nothing more has happened than this: an idea that seemed intelligible has turned out to be incoherent. Whether commitment to transcendental idealism in its more consistent development can be avoided along these lines remains to be seen (cf. chapter 19).

3 Cf.

‘To say that there was a time when there was nothing is on the same level and as nonsensical as to say part of my visual field is not coloured.’ (LWL: 109).

6 Kant’s Transcendental Idealism

The debate over Kant’s transcendental idealism is essentially a quarrel about the meaning and role of the concepts ‘thing in itself ’ and ‘appearance’ in critical philosophy. It is a topic that is likely to prompt disagreement of a kind that involves very basic philosophical attitudes and general views about what a good interpretation is; what kind of interpretation is needed; and even what kind of interpretation is needed today. In many cases, it is not simply a matter of demonstrating on textual grounds that the other side is wrong. Even the selection of passages of different texts in different editions, and the relative weight attached to them, varies according to one’s own general outlook. There is textual support for contrary views, and there is no view that is consistent with all relevant passages. Still, it is not true that anything goes. In view of the inconsistencies in what Kant says, it has been proposed that the doctrine of transcendental idealism in the second edition of the Critique is not the same as in the first. According to this view, he began with an idealistic doctrine that made spatial objects ontologically dependent on the subject’s sensible states, later reinterpreting this in terms of an epistemological dependence of empirical objects on the knowing subject. There is enough truth in this rough outline to inspire reservations towards

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_6



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any interpretative approach that ignores whether the date of a passage is 1781, 1783, 1787, or later. In my view, it is even too strong an assumption to defend that there is only one doctrine of transcendental idealism at a single time. This is a more pessimistic view of the possibility of giving a coherent interpretation of the doctrine than most commentators would accept. I think that no commentator can do without a degree of selfimmunization in counting passages out or taking certain formulations as paradigms for the interpretation of others, even where this involves a certain amount of strain. Here, the greatest weight will be accorded to the second edition of the Critique (1787). The first edition (1781) contains more problematic passages on the ‘appearance’/‘thing in itself ’ contrast than the second, but is often more revealing about Kant’s deeper motivations. Both editions are more authoritative than is the popular work Prolegomena (1783), on which I hardly ever see reason to rely. In this chapter, I shall consider two readings which concur in their rejection of phenomenalist interpretations of transcendental idealism but disagree on the ontological import of Kant’s distinction between ‘appearance’ and ‘thing in itself ’. The first is closely associated with Gerold Prauss’ and Henry Allison’s contributions; versions of the second are held by Rae Langton, Lucy Allais, Tobias Rosefeldt, among others. I shall not directly engage with newer varieties of ‘phenomenalist’ readings, as they do not question the metaphysical interpretation of ‘things in themselves’, which is in focus here. My aim in this chapter is to give sufficient reason for leaving the second interpretation out of consideration in the chapters to come. Put differently, I shall go along with the rejection of phenomenalist interpretations common to both readings but keep only the Prauss-Allison interpretation in play. This interpretation is an attempt to articulate the idea of an epistemological dependence of empirical objects on the subject. I am concerned here neither with fully articulating this view nor with a direct argument for its systematic fruitfulness. It is sufficient, for my purposes, that an interpretation of this kind is recognized as the logical choice, once the phenomenalist reading is discarded. My reason for approaching the debate in this way is that if transcendental idealism were to be essentially a metaphysical doctrine, what I shall be saying about Kant and Wittgenstein will have less interest

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than I believe it to have. It would reduce to noting some points of contact between two philosophical projects that, as such, bear no interesting relations to one another, not even in terms of occupying successive stages in a dialectic between transcendentalism and its deflation. The first triad of passages which I want to quote are standardly invoked in favour of phenomenalistic readings of ‘appearances’: (a) [A]ppearances are not things in themselves, but rather the mere play of our representations, which in the end come down to determinations of the inner sense. (A 101) (b) We have sufficiently proved in the Transcendental Aesthetic that everything intuited in space or in time, hence all objects of an experience possible for us, are nothing but appearances, i.e., mere representations, which, as they are represented, as extended things or series of alterations, have outside our thoughts no existence grounded in itself. This doctrine I call transcendental idealism. (A 491/B 518) (c) The non-sensible cause of [empirical] representations is entirely unknown to us, and therefore we cannot intuit it as an object; for such an object would have to be represented neither in space nor in time (as a mere condition of our sensible representation), without which conditions we cannot think any intuition. Meanwhile we can call the merely intelligible cause of appearances in general the transcendental object, merely so that we may have something corresponding to sensibility as receptivity. (A 494/B 522)

An early critic of Kant, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, summarized the upshot of these passages as follows: Hence, what we realists call actual objects, things that are independent of our representations, are only inner beings for the transcendental idealist, they are beings that present nothing of the thing that MAY be outside of us, or to which the appearance MAY relate, rather, they are MERELY SUBJECTIVE determinations of the mind, completely void of everything that is ACTUALLY objective. (Jacobi 1787: 216f.)

Jacobi famously remarked that without the presupposition that mindindependent objects in space affect our senses he could not find his way into Kant’s system, and with this presupposition he could not remain


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there (cf. Jacobi 1787: 223). He writes: ‘The word “sensibility” is already entirely meaningless if we do not understand it to be … an actual intermediary from something to something.’ (Jacobi 1787: 222) It is essential to our concept of sensibility that the contents of what we perceive, or intuit, are explained by reference to the objects perceived. Without this understanding we do not know what Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic is about in the first place. This is the first horn of the dilemma. In passage (a), Kant identifies ‘appearances’ with a ‘mere play of representations’, and in passage (b) he identifies objects in space and time with such appearances. Taking these points together, we get the inconsistency that a mere play of representations is accorded the causal efficacy to produce itself. Jacobi does not simply say that transcendental idealism rejects the presupposition of a real distinctness of intuition and objects intuited. He thinks that passages like (c), the one about the non-sensible cause of representations, lead to the more complicated view that appearances are ultimately appearances of a realm of non-temporal and non-spatial beings. Jacobi complains that in this way ‘it remains hidden in deepest obscurity just where this cause is, and what is the nature of its relation to the effect’ (Jacobi 1787: 224). The categories, including the relational category of cause and effect, cannot be applied to things in themselves so as to determine them objectively, i.e. yield cognition of them (cf. B166 n., B306f., KpV: 54). This constitutes the second horn of the dilemma (cf. Franks 2014: 26f.). It becomes entirely mysterious how the world, as we experience it, should depend on the world as it is in itself, if this ‘dependence’ is supposed to maintain between a spatio-temporal and a non-spatio-temporal realm. Acceptance of the mystery is usually combined with a reading of ‘appearances’ and ‘things in themselves’ as two kinds of things. This is commonly named a ‘two worlds’ interpretation of the contrast (cf. Prauss 1971: 22 n. 38). Another designation is ‘phenomenalism cum noumenalism’, using the other term employed by Kant, noumenon, to designate the thing in itself (cf. Allais 2004: 658). I shall also use ‘noumenal cause’ and ‘Intelligible cause’ as equivalent terms to refer to the thing in itself insofar as it is the ground of appearances. The interpretations mentioned at the beginning of this chapter have been decisively influenced by the work of Gerold Prauss in the 1970s. Ignoring the debate’s earlier history for the moment, one might say that

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the first stands in direct lineage to Prauss’ reading while the second emerged from a dissatisfaction with this solution, without however repudiating the idea that appearances and things in themselves must in some way be construed as two aspects of one and the same thing. The two interpretations are most commonly distinguished by adding the epithet ‘epistemological’ or ‘methodological’ to the Prauss-Allison reading and ‘metaphysical’ or ‘ontological’ to the reading defended by Langton, Allais, and Rosefeldt. Allison comments on the limited usefulness of framing the issue in this way by clarifying that he never meant to deny that transcendental idealism has metaphysical implications (cf. Allison 2006: 1, 19f. n. 2). Still, in marked contrast to the rival account, he insists that transcendental idealism is not itself a metaphysical doctrine but ‘provides a radical alternative to ontology’ (Allison 2006: 2). What this could mean shall be examined later (cf. chapter 11). The epistemological ‘two aspects’ interpretation derives from Prauss’ observation that Kant uses Ding an sich, ‘thing in itself ’, seldom without adding the word selbst; Ding an sich selbst (cf. Prauss 1974: 12). Prauss argues that this has to be extended even further, to ‘thing considered in itself ’, or Ding, an sich selbst betrachtet, which suggests that the Kantian phrase is a translation of the Latin res per se considerata (cf. Prauss 1974: 20). In Alexander Baumgarten’s Metaphysica, which Kant used in his lectures on metaphysics, we indeed find a similar expression, spectatur in se, which is translated by Kant as ‘considered in and for itself ’ (Ak. XVII: 29, 35; §15, §37). The expression in se spectatum, in Baumgarten, takes different subjects, most frequently ens, ‘thing’.1 There are also translations by Kant from Latin into German in his Opus postumum. The following passage is often quoted in this connection: (d) The thing in itself (ens per se) is not another object but another relationship (respectus) of the imagination to the same object[.] (Op. post. II: 26)

As the phrase is traditionally understood, to consider things per se is to be concerned with their inner, essential determinations. To ask ‘What is 1 The relevant selections of the 1775 edition of Baumgarten’s treatise are reprinted with Kant’s notes in the Akademieausgabe (cf. §69, §75, §108, and §427, Ak. XVII: 41, 43, 49, 115).


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x per se?’ is to ask what it is in so far as it is x, apart from its relations to something else. This idea is also found in Baumgarten (cf. Ak. XVII: 29, 35–37) but has often been neglected by commentators of Kant.2 To emphasize this strand is a way of breaking the notion of ‘appearance’ loose from the empiricists’ psychological concepts of ‘impression’, ‘perception’, or ‘idea’. It also allows for the possibility that what Kant says about things in themselves may be said with an eye toward a conception of philosophy as a theory of essences, which he is opposing. The following two quotations substantiate that he conceives appearances as relational: (e) Now through mere relations no thing in itself is cognized; it is therefore right to judge that since nothing is given to us through outer sense except mere representations of relation, outer sense can also contain in its representation only the relation of an object to the subject, and not that which is internal to the object in itself. (B 67)3 (f ) In an object of the pure understanding only that is internal that has no relation (as far as the existence is concerned) to anything that is different from it. The inner determinations of a substantia phaenomenon in space, on the contrary, are nothing but relations, and it is itself entirely a sum total of mere relations. (A 265/B 321)

The parallelism of these two passages suggests that the phrase ‘object of the pure understanding’ in (f ) is another way of saying ‘thing in itself ’. If an object in space is ‘itself entirely a sum total of mere relations’ (A 265/B 321), then how things are in themselves is not a set of real but unknowable properties of empirical objects. The passage is in tension with the claim made by proponents of the metaphysical ‘two aspects’ reading that Kant assumes that if a thing exists, it has an inner nature that is absolutely independent of its relations to other things. Let us now return to Jacobi’s dilemma and ask how a line of interpretation of Praussian inspiration may better enable one to solve it. In view of what has been said, one may be tempted to take a very short line. If Kant is not committed to the existence of supersensible 2 For 3 Cf.

a notable exception, see Langton 1998: 30 n. 19, 97. A 285/B 341 and Ak. XXIII: 34, E CIV, added to A 255 of Kant’s own copy.

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entities, then there can only be empirical affection but not affection through things in themselves. This is indeed what Prauss concluded (cf. Prauss 1974: 197, 204). Allison, on the other hand, is prepared to go through greater trouble to accommodate Kant’s talk of an intellectual ground of appearances. He thinks that Jacobi’s dilemma derives from two misconceptions: ‘Jacobi’s denial [that Kantian appearances can be the affecting objects] is based on a twofold confusion: it conflates Kantian phenomena with Berkeleian ideas, and it construes affection simply as a species of causation.’ (Allison 2004: 67) The first point is rather straightforward, though obscured by Allison’s reference to Berkeley, for whom the world is nothing but idea (cf. PHK: 80, §91). What Allison means to say is that Jacobi misunderstood Kantian appearances to be subjective mental states. It is only on this erroneous interpretation that it becomes unintelligible how empirical intuitions should be produced in the first place. Allison thinks that intelligible causation does have a role in Kant’s theory: ‘Kant does speak of the transcendental object (or its equivalent) as affecting the mind, and he further seems to equate this with its serving as a non-sensible cause or ground of appearances.’ (Allison 2004: 65) I am sympathetic to this approach of trying to account for intelligible causation within the framework of an epistemological ‘two aspects’ reading, but I am not convinced that ‘serving as a non-sensible cause or ground of appearances’ is equivalent to their ‘affecting the mind’. The basic formulation in Kant is that the thing in itself, or the transcendental object, affects the mind through appearances. The question, accordingly, is not in what way things in themselves may affect the mind but rather in what sense they are the ‘ground’, or ‘intelligible cause’, of appearances (which affect the mind). On this view, it is passages like the following that should be treated as basic: (g) [H]ow things in themselves may be (without regard to representations through which they affect us) is entirely beyond our cognitive sphere. (A 190/B 235) (h) The transcendental object that grounds both outer appearances and inner intuition … is … an unknown ground of those appearances that supply us with our empirical concepts[.] (A 379f.)


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Also, quotation (c) is consistent with taking formulations like (g) and (h) as basic (cf. A 44/B 61, Entd.: 215). Prauss, it seems to me, is quite right to deny that there is noumenal affection in Kant, if this means ‘affection in a noumenal way’.4 It is not insofar as they affect us that things in themselves are noumenal causes of appearances but insofar as they are the ‘ground’ of appearances, in a sense yet to be determined. Allison’s second point against Jacobi’s account was that ‘it construes affection simply as a species of causation’ (Allison 2004: 67). According to Allison, this is true only of empirical affection, while there is a further, non-empirical, dependence of ‘appearances in general’ on things in themselves (cf. Allison 2004: 70). An empirical object cannot play the role of a ground of appearance in general, for any particular empirical object is part of what the transcendental object, in some sense, ‘grounds’. I have suggested that an intelligible cause is not a ‘cause’ in virtue of affecting the mind, in some obscure noumenal way, but in virtue of being required as a ‘ground’ of appearances. But in what sense? According to the Prauss-Allison line of interpretation, this is not to be explained in terms of an assumption of the existence of things in themselves, or intrinsic properties on which the perceivable properties depend. Within the frame of an epistemological ‘two aspects’ reading, the thing in itself is not a real thing, as opposed to an object of the senses, but conceived as a non-empirical principle of experience (cf. Op. post. II: 24, 1800). Allison calls this relation between appearance and thing in itself ‘epistemic’ (Allison 2004: 67). I wish to say only this much: in Kant’s theoretical philosophy the rich metaphysical concept of a thing in itself reduces to the concept of the determinable in general = x (cf. A 250f.). This determinable something is purely intellectual and a priori and represented as determinable through the manifold of experience. It does not stand in an ontological relation to appearances at all, but is set over and against sensibility as something thought (cf. KpV: 42). Accordingly, the central point of contention between proponents of the epistemological and the metaphysical ‘two aspects’ interpretations is

4 What

would make sense to say is that the intellectual representation of a thing in itself affects the mind, that is, prompts some imagination or other (cf. B 156).

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whether the thing in itself is to be understood as a realistic assumption of critical philosophy or not.5 According to the Prauss-Allison view, Kant’s realism has nothing to do with an existential presupposition of things in themselves. I shall argue later that realism, in Kant, is essentially a matter of the senses (cf. chapter 16). This is, admittedly, not more than a sketch of an interpretation, but it is one that will suffice to act as a foil against which to offset the metaphysical ‘two aspects’ interpretation. As I said above, I am not concerned here with a direct argument for the Prauss-Allison view. What will be argued in the remainder of this chapter is that, after dismissing the phenomenalist interpretation, as defined by the identification of appearances with mental states, it is not the metaphysical ‘two aspects’ interpretation that is to be pursued. As will become evident later on, a phenomenalist reading of Kant’s idealism fails to make sense of central parts of Kant’s doctrine, such as the Refutation of Idealism and the Second Analogy (cf. chapters 10 and 16). Since the problems for such a reading are well known, I shall not address them explicitly.6 A notable earlier commentator who defends a metaphysical ‘two aspects’ interpretation is Erich Adickes (cf. Adickes 1924: 8, 12f., 20, 109f.). According to Adickes, things in themselves are objectively given as an ‘other side’ (andere Seite) of the objects in appearance (cf. Adickes 1924: 8, 12f., 20). The distinction is not one between different kinds of objects but between ‘different way[s] of considering one and the same objects’ (eine verschiedene Betrachtungsweise ein und derselben Objekte) (cf. Adickes 1924: 109f.). Central to this approach is an explanation of why Kant should repeatedly say that ‘what the things may be in themselves I do not know [weiß ich nicht]’ (A 276f./B 333). What Kant means to say is that there is actually something on which we are missing out. In the more recent literature, this is typically promoted as a moderate metaphysical interpretation, one that is able to accommodate for apparently

5 Allais

is explicit on this point: ‘I … take it that transcendental idealism involves commitment to an actually existing aspect of reality of which we cannot have knowledge. In other words, in my view, the notion of things in themselves is not simply a concept which we unavoidably think, with nothing actually corresponding to it, or merely a way of considering things.’ (Allais 2011b: 394) 6 A succinct and forceful presentation is given in Allais 2004: 660–668.


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conflicting tendencies in Kant’s texts and thus avoid the extremes of both phenomenalism cum noumenalism and Prauss-Allisonian deflationism (cf. Allais 2015: 8, 11). However, an examination of what is offered under this optimistic title strongly suggests that the conflicts are real and that the idea of a ‘moderate metaphysical interpretation’ must be discarded. It is probably even wrong to present the situation as one of having to choose between different interpretative options so that one could go for the best exegetical compromise. It seems to me rather that all interpretations of transcendental idealism mentioned here capture certain aspects of one movement of thought that invariably tends towards a metaphysically deflationary conception. I turn to Allais for exposition. Allais construes Kant’s ‘appearances’ as analogous to ordinary subjectrelative properties of objects. Useful as an object of comparison (within limits) is how something appears from far off. How an object appears from far off is dependent on a perceiving subject and is, also, a real property of the object. Moreover, there is a sense in which how something looks from far off is independent of what can be noted on close inspection. This is part of what Wittgenstein means when he says: ‘If I’m supposed to describe how an object looks from far off, I don’t make the description more accurate by saying what can be noticed about the object on closer inspection.’ (PI §171b) Similarly, Saturn can be said to possess two handles, if this is claimed to hold only relative to a certain means of observation (cf. B 69f. n.). It is a description of how Saturn looks for anybody under certain conditions.7 Allais’ most important model for a subject-relative property of the kind she thinks is needed is colour (cf. Allais 2007: 468–477). The colour an object is seen to have is a ‘perceptual mode of presentation of the object’. Properties of this type are distinct from attributes possessed independently of any mode of presentation (Allais 2007: 472). According to Allais, we get Kant’s view in the following way: ‘To get Kant’s position, we then have to take the further step of saying that all the properties of objects which we perceive them to have are only appearances in this sense.’ (Allais 2004: 673; cf. Allais 2007: 477, Allais 2015: 125). The crucial claim

7 Rosefeldt

offers an illuminating discussion of this example (Rosefeldt 2007: 175–177).

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is that ‘what we know of things [i.e., their appearances] is partly determined by the way they mind-independently are, but our experience does not reach their intrinsic or ultimate nature’ (Allais 2004: 680; cf. Allais 2007: 481, 483f.). This is Kant’s (supposed) epistemic humility concerning things in themselves. My first objection is this. Subject-relative properties are temporal. If they are partly determined by subject-independent properties, these other properties have to be temporal too. Since these properties are, as Allais says, ‘the way they mind-independently are’, the things of which they are the properties would also have to be temporal. If so, we are clearly considering them as appearances ‘in space and time, neither of which is a determination of things in themselves’ (A 494/B 522).8 The only way to avoid this conclusion is by saying that subject-relative properties are dependent on the non-temporal properties in some unknown way. This is precisely what Allais is doing. She claims that ‘[a thing’s intrinsic nature] is responsible for the observable properties and powers that things have’ (Allais 2004: 679). She continues: ‘[A]n objection might be that we do not know what is meant by “responsible” … here’, to which she responds: ‘This is in fact part of [Kant’s] position: just as we cannot know the intrinsic nature of things, or the grounds of powers, we cannot know the relation between the ground and the powers’ (Allais 2004: 680, cf. Allais 2015: 256f.). Even as it stands, this account can hardly be deemed satisfactory. After more than 200 years of discussion, it tells us that the best we can do is to endorse some version of the second horn of Jacobi’s dilemma. Rosefeldt defends a variant of Allais’ account. The objection made in the last paragraph can be developed so as to say that, according to the metaphysical ‘two-aspects’ reading, one would be forced to explain the dependence of subject-relative properties on the intrinsic attributes of objects in a causal way. Against this, Rosefeldt argues that, strictly speaking, ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ are applied not to things but to the ‘having of properties by objects’, thus to ‘something like events or states’, and that Kant does not identify a particular transcendental object a and a particular

8 See

also A 26/B 42, A 32/B 49, KpV: 94, Entd.: 207.


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property F as being responsible for phenomena; rather, he only refers indeterminately to some such objects and properties (Rosefeldt 2007: 206– 208, transl. B. R.). But even so, ‘the having of properties’ is certainly something temporal, and if this is the case, so are the objects. We are again dealing with nothing but phenomena. Within a metaphysical ‘two aspects’ interpretation, this conclusion can be avoided only by following Allais into accepting the idea of an inexplicable ‘responsibility’ of the way things are in themselves for their manifest properties. We are thus led back again to the second horn of Jacobi’s dilemma. Moreover, if the internal determinations are ‘responsible’ for the manifest properties, there must be different non-manifest properties just as there are different manifest ones (cf. Langton 1998: 134f.). If this is not the case, the former cannot be ‘responsible’ for the latter. Priority is clearly given to the plural, how things are in themselves. This is a difficult idea. It makes noumenal, or intelligible, causation look too much like ordinary causation. If there were to be hidden specific causes of manifest properties of objects, we would certainly be aware of that, independently of what Kant says. We would be aware of a lack in our explanations and would have begun making hypotheses about the inner attributes of things long ago. Accordingly, part of what the proponents of the metaphysical ‘two aspects’ interpretation say pulls towards the idea of ordinary dependence of surface properties of things on their deeper-level structures. On the other hand, however, what they say pulls towards the traditional idea of essential determinations, and thus towards the acceptance of things in themselves. To say that there are internal, real, and necessarily inaccessible determinations of things clearly implies a transcendentally realist assumption. It may not involve thoroughgoing noumenalism – in the rather unclear sense in which the proponents of this interpretation deny being noumenalists – but the realism it implies is clearly not just empirical realism. There is another objection that weighs particularly heavily from the perspective of a methodological ‘two aspects’ interpretation. It is that the metaphysical reading violates Kant’s methodology in either of two ways. It either invokes transcendental hypotheses or derives the existence of things in themselves dogmatically from mere concepts. This is a consequence of

6 Kant’s Transcendental Idealism


viewing ‘things in themselves’ and/or the way they are in themselves as real existences. Since the realm in which they purportedly exist is strictly inaccessible, the question arises how Kant could admit such an element into his system. Proponents of the metaphysical ‘two aspects’ reading must give an account of Kant’s justification of what, according to them, is an existential proposition about things in themselves. A first way in which this could be done is through what is variously referred to as an ‘inference to the best explanation’, ‘abduction’ or ‘hypothesis’.9 If we deal with factual abduction, the procedure comes down to this: state the fact to be explained in the conclusion of a modus ponens with blanks instead of premises in the respective places, and then guess at the premises; whether the guess is a good one will be checked by its deductive implications. Abduction, according to an apt phrase by Charles Sanders Peirce, is an attempt at ‘rowing up the current of deductive sequence’ (CP 2.622). In most cases, one proceeds from observed facts to their unobserved, or unobservable, causes. For example, when a body of data indicates the wobbling of a star, one may infer the existence of a planet which explains the wobbling. Now, even if we apply this procedure only to the existence of intrinsic properties, rather than to the existence of the things themselves, this would be in direct conflict with Kant’s Doctrine of Method: (i) For the explanation of given appearances no other things and grounds of explanation can be adduced than those which are connected to the given appearances by already known laws of appearances. A transcendental hypothesis, in which the mere idea of reason would be used for the explanation of things in nature, would thus be no explanation at all, since that which one does not adequately understand on the basis of known empirical principles would be explained by means of something about which one understands nothing at all. (A 772/B 800; cf. KpV: 139)

In view of this passage, it is hardly imaginable that Kant should accept an abductive procedure to establish that there are either things in themselves 9 ‘Hypothesis’ is the term Peirce first used in 1878 for what he later called ‘abduction’ (cf. CP 2.634, CP 5.144).


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or epistemically inaccessible properties of things. This interpretation would also be difficult to align with the fact that he associates this argument pattern with problematic idealism (cf. chapter 7). Although Kant rejects this view, he certainly agrees with the problematic idealist that if impressions in the mind were to be all we are ever directly acquainted with, it would be uncertain whether these are caused by material objects. This means that if, against all plausibility, he was to make such an inference to the inner properties of things, he would have to conclude that their existence is uncertain, rather than certain (cf. Adickes 1924: 117f.). As I have noted, the inference from appearances to things in themselves, or to the existence of intrinsic properties, can also be understood in another way, namely, as an inference from concepts. But just as is the case with abduction, it could not possibly justify the purported reality of things in themselves. This becomes evident upon noting that existential propositions are synthetic for Kant (cf. A 598/B 626, A 639/B 667). An inference from concepts to the existence of intrinsic properties can only be either fallacious or a petitio.10 Some commentators, however, think that it is less obvious that Kant rejects this approach. They think that when he says that ‘it … follows naturally from the concept of an appearance in general that something must correspond to it which is not in itself appearance’, he means to argue for the existence of intrinsic properties (A 251f.). What Kant, in fact, does in these passages is register the presence of an analytic implication. A clear indication of this is his appeal to the absurdity of the opposite: (j) Yet the reservation must also be well noted, that even if we cannot cognize these same objects [i.e., appearances] as things in themselves, we at least must be able to think them as things in themselves. For otherwise there would follow the absurd proposition that there is an appearance without anything that appears. (B xxvi–xxvii; cf. B 306, Prol.: 314)

10 As

this term is used here, a ‘petitio principii’ is a formally valid but question-begging argument; one that assumes the truth of what ought to be proved without being otherwise defective. Thus conceived, a petitio is not a formal fallacy.

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The topic here is whether things in themselves can be thought; not whether they exist in reality. The tautological implication, indicated by the words ‘there would follow’, is likely to be Kant’s reason for using the concept ‘appearance’. The use of the concept cannot, conversely, be his reason for believing that things other than appearances exist. To conclude, I wish to briefly look at Langton’s and Allais’ accounts of the inference in question, beginning with Langton’s: As a general rule, relations, and relational properties, imply the existence of independent bearers: substances capable of existence in the absence of the relations to other things. The inference from appearance to the existence of a thing in itself is an application of this general rule. (Langton 1998: 22)

Two points seem to me to be essential. First, if Langton’s inference is explanatory, it is a transcendental hypothesis, no matter whether she infers the existence of things in themselves or the existence of inner properties. If, instead, the inference is one from concepts, existence cannot be derived but only assumed in an additional judgement, as all existential propositions are synthetic according to Kant. The inference would be ‘tautological’, as Kant says about the inference ‘I think, therefore I am’ (cf. A 355). Second, the rule invoked by Langton in the quotation remains tacit about the question of whether the relations mentioned in it depend on the properties of the relevant substances in explicable ways. The rule is perfectly compatible with the possibility that these substances have properties that stand in lawful connections to the way they appear to us. But then, an inference invoking this rule cannot establish that there must be a special realm of reality that bears no such connections to the world as appearance. The same considerations apply to Allais’ account of the inference to the existence of such a realm. Even granting that the ‘idea of there being relations without there being something non-relational’ makes no sense for Kant (Allais 2015: 240), this has no tendency to establish that these non-relational properties either display a complete lack of lawful connections to the relational properties of things or that such connections, assuming they exist, must necessarily remain unknown to us. One or the other must be established, otherwise we are not talking of


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things in themselves. But it is hardly a truth, let alone an analytic one, that relations require something non-relational that stands in no determinable connection to the relational properties. That the objects in question meet this further specification is simply assumed in Allais’ argument and not established. Allais explicitly addresses the objection made above, that an existential proposition is synthetic and, therefore, cannot be proved by an ‘analytical entailment’ (cf. Allais 2015: 69f.). She sees that construing the inference, instead, as an abduction would not be acceptable (cf. Allais 2015: 44). In her reply, she grants that the objection ‘would have force as an argument against [non-spatio-temporal] intelligibilia, but the objection will not hold if we understand things in themselves as I do, where the idea is simply that the things which we cognize have a way they are independently of our cognizing them’ (Allais 2015: 70; cf. 59f.). There are two things about this answer that I find puzzling. First, Kant’s view is not that only existential propositions about non-spatio-temporal things are synthetic but that ‘every existential proposition is synthetic’ (A 598/B 626). Supposing that Allais holds that the inference provides Kant with a reason for accepting the view she attributes to him, it cannot be construed as an ‘analytical entailment’, as this could only make explicit what he already accepts. Second, Allais says later in her book that, for Kant, science has no need for the concept of ‘inner natures’ but explains everything in terms of relational properties. She goes on to affirm that ‘the inner natures of things are not part of empirical reality’ (Allais 2015: 242). This just serves to bring out how difficult it is to grasp her view. If the inner natures of things are not part of empirical reality, they are non-spatio-temporal. But then how could they be properties of spatio-temporal things? This is not more intelligible than the view she rejects, viz. that non-spatiotemporal intelligbilia exist in addition to the objects of experience (cf. Allais 2015: 59f.). There is something else one could say to render the present account more acceptable. One could say that, for Kant, the view that the existence of empirical objects as appearances implies the existence of unknowable aspects of these same things is without alternative. There need be no

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argument for it at all (which coheres better with the fact that there is none). That is actually what Allais says in the following passage: As I read them, both Locke and Kant do not take it to be an option – they simply assume that if a thing exists it has a non-relational nature, a way that it is independent of its relations to other things, including relations to perceiving subjects. (Allais 2015: 34f.; cf. 231)

The assimilation of Kant’s distinction with Locke’s contrast between primary and secondary qualities is endemic to the group of commentators who share a version of this reading. According to the view expressed in this quotation, it is not so much that relations require the existence of the objects they relate but that, given that there are such objects, there also must be a subjacent ontological layer of non-relational properties in which the relational properties are grounded. On the view under consideration, it is the best thing one can say that Kant simply assumes this (cf. Adickes 1924: 9, 93–95). It is the slack in critical philosophy, rather than the howler it turns out to be when any attempt at argument is made. In the chapters to come, the metaphysical ‘two aspects’ interpretation will be set aside and a methodological ‘two aspects’ interpretation of Kant’s idealism taken as the relevant point of reference. I have given three main reasons for this. First, the metaphysical ‘two aspects’ interpretation has no answer to Jacobi’s dilemma, which has figured prominently in the debate. Second, the element of realism about the way things are in themselves, central to the approach, wavers between the empirical and the transcendent, which also does not sit well with the requirement of a transcendental account. Third, any account of an inference to the existence of epistemically inaccessible aspects of things is bound to violate the methodology of critical philosophy, and without such an account it remains unclear why Kant should have thought that they are there at all. We are thus led to the methodological ‘two aspects’ reading as the natural next stage of the quest for a viable interpretation of transcendental idealism. This interpretation, however, has been found ‘anodyne’ and ‘deflationary’ by the commentators we are about to leave, which suggests that also this stage might not be a fully stable one (cf. chapter 19).

Part II Kant’s Argument Against Problematic Idealism

Introduction The argument Kant has added to the passage of the Postulates of Empirical Thinking in the second edition of the Critique is associated with two pointed descriptions. The first appears in a lengthy footnote which is a late addition to the preface. There he writes that his new criticism of ‘psychological idealism’ amounts to a ‘strict proof … of the objective reality of outer intuition’, that is, ‘[a proof of ] the existence of things outside us’ (B xl). The second description is provided by the heading of the passage itself, ‘Refutation of Idealism’. Whereas the former encourages particular expectations about the result of the argument, the latter suggests how the passage is to be approached. The suggested approach is to determine the target position of the idealist, and then to examine how Kant attempts to refute it. No particular approach is suggested by the first description. Announcing ‘a proof … of the existence of things outside us’ rather appears to provide a criterion for evaluating possible reconstructions of the argument. It encourages the idea that the conclusion will be an existential proposition about external objects that is derived from premises which in some way make their existence necessary. Any reconstruction can readily


II Kant’s Argument Against Problematic Idealism

be checked against this criterion. The idea receives support by Kant’s talk of a ‘scandal of philosophy’, which occurs in the same footnote: [I]t always remains a scandal of philosophy and universal human reason that the existence of things outside us … should have to be assumed merely on faith, and that if it occurs to anyone to doubt it, we should be unable to answer him with a satisfactory proof. (B xxxix n.)

Before an attempt is made at proving existences outside us, the question has to be settled whether the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’ stand in a relation that admits such a proof at all. The first thing to note is that presenting the issue in the terms Kant uses in this passage leaves the idealist’s picture essentially unaltered. It accepts the view that a proof of things outside us, based on subjective mental states, is something desirable and thus possible. In spite of the popularity of the passage, I do not think that it is a good guide to an accurate reading of the Refutation of Idealism. When it comes to clarifying his own approach, Kant is not always his best spokesman. It will be argued here that the Refutation challenges the idealist’s picture of our relation to objects in space in a way that also undermines the possibility of proving their existence from premises about an ‘inner’ realm that would be independent of ‘outer’ objects. A more accurate characterization of the argument occurs towards the end of the same footnote. He says that experience of my own existence in time ‘could not take place even as inner [experience] if it were not simultaneously (in part) outer’ (B xli n.). According to this description, the Refutation is an attempt to show that there are no purely subjective mental states, thus depriving the idealist of an independent basis for the formulation of the problem about the existence of objects in space in the first place. What really happens in the Refutation, I shall argue, is that a certain picture of our sensible relationship to things in the world is repudiated. For if Kant’s argument establishes that inner experience of my own existence in time is simultaneously in part outer, it proves no existences outside me from inner experiences; it shows that inner experience is really something quite different. The moral Kant should have drawn from the Refutation is that there is no proof of the existence of ‘external’ objects either, if this is understood in the terms of the idealist.

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Accordingly, of the two descriptions Kant gives of his new proof only the second, his talk of a ‘refutation’, provides guidance. I shall begin my examination of Kant’s Refutation in chapter 7 with an exposition of the kind of idealism it is aimed at. I do this in more detail than is usually thought necessary, including an examination of Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy in chapter 8. My reason for paying particular attention to the intertextual setting of the argument is that a great many accounts suffer from conflating the position of problematic idealism with First-Mediation scepticism. This distinction is not meant to imply that the conjunction ‘sceptical idealism’ can play no role, which, of course, is occasionally used by Kant himself to designate Descartes’ position (cf. A 377, Ak. XXIII: 59). I intend this distinction to respond to a problem about identifying the proper stage of Descartes’ gradually evolving doctrine in the Meditations that is the focus of Kant’s argument. Not all stages are consistent with the radical kind of scepticism Descartes became so firmly associated with, and we cannot simply assume that radical scepticism must be Kant’s target, just because this is what interests us most. I wish to add that the discussion of Descartes includes the first part of an argument that will be completed in a later chapter on Wittgenstein’s On Certainty (cf. chapter 15). In chapter 9, I proceed to discuss Kant’s notion of transcendental proofs, which is different from the now current understanding of transcendental arguments. The current notion has been introduced by Strawson in a rather loose connection with Kant’s texts (cf. Strawson 1959: 40). It cannot be taken for granted in approaching the Refutation that we know what a ‘transcendental proof ’ is. Having expounded the position of the idealist, as well as indicated what kind of argument should and should not be expected of Kant, I examine the structure and force of the Refutation in chapter 10. This is the core chapter of Part II. It will be argued that the Refutation, as it is presented in the text of the second edition, is a sound argument but more modest than is widely believed. In particular, it is not meant to prove the existence of material objects in the face of radical scepticism. Kant’s argument will be seen to possess strong affinities with ideas found in Wittgenstein, especially concerning the experiencing subject in idealism and the relation between ‘the inner’ and ‘the outer’.


II Kant’s Argument Against Problematic Idealism

The eleventh chapter deals with the relation of problematic idealism to what Kant calls ‘transcendental realism’. Allison describes transcendental realism as a meta-epistemological ‘standpoint or normative model’ (Allison 2004: 35). It is not obvious how this relates to Kant’s explanation that transcendental realism ‘regards space and time as something given in themselves’ (A 369). I do, however, think that if transcendental realism is stated in perfectly general form, a good case can be made for Allison’s view. I shall also relate the position of problematic idealism to the broader theme of transcendental illusion in the Dialectic.

7 The Position of Problematic Idealism

There are several indications and descriptions given in Kant’s text which allow us to identify the position whose refutation is aimed at. A first indication occurs just before the heading, ‘Refutation of Idealism’: If we do not begin with experience, or proceed in accordance with laws of the empirical connection of appearances, then we are only making a vain display of wanting to discover or research the existence of any thing. However, a powerful objection against these rules for proving existence mediately is made by idealism, the refutation of which belongs here. (B 273f.)

These lines associate the idealist with a ‘powerful objection’ against proving existence according to certain principles. The existence of a thing, Kant says shortly before this passage, can either be cognised immediately through experience, or through proceeding ‘in accordance with laws of the empirical connection of appearances’. As is clear from a phrase that occurs a few lines back and is echoed in this formulation, these laws, or principles, are the Analogies of Experience. In that passage,Kant says

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_7



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that the existence of a thing that is not immediately perceived can be cognised,1 ‘if it is connected with some perceptions in accordance with the principles of their empirical connection (the analogies)’ (A 225/B 273). Against this idea, he continues, idealism has raised a ‘powerful objection’. The question, then, is: which? The Refutation passage divides into preamble, statement of the theorem, proof of the theorem, and three notes of clarification. The first indication of an answer is found in the preamble of the passage. It begins with a distinction of two varieties of idealism. Dogmatic, or Berkeleian, idealism is said to deny the existence of objects outside us, problematic idealism merely to doubt that we have sufficient grounds for recognizing their existence. It is with regard to the latter that talk of mediate and immediate cognition of the existence of objects is resumed: ‘Problematic idealism professes our incapacity for proving an existence outside us from our own by means of immediate experience.’ (B 274f.) This permits making an identification that is crucial for one’s understanding of the argument. The ‘powerful objection’ of problematic idealism is the same as the reasoning that is sketched in the first note on the proof: [I]dealism assumed that the only immediate experience is inner experience, and that from that outer things could only be inferred, but, as in any case in which one infers from given effects to determined causes, only unreliably[.] (B 276)

This reasoning, in turn, is the same as that of the fourth paralogism of the first edition of the Critique (cf. A 366f.). As a result, problematic idealism can be characterized by the following five propositions: (I1 ) I exist (as a thinking being). (I2 ) The only objects which I immediately cognise are representations in me. (I3 ) The existence of all objects in outer intuition can be inferred only as causes of given effects, i.e. of their representations.

1 The

kind of cognition Kant has in mind here is inference.

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(I4 ) If a thing can be inferred only as a cause of given effects, it has only a doubtful existence. (I5 ) The existence of all objects in outer intuition is doubtful. The last proposition, of the uncertainty of the existence of things outside us, can be justified as the conclusion of an argument using the former two propositions, (I3 ) and (I4 ). The conclusion is not a blunt denial of the reality of outer appearances but says that it is doubtful, which implies that their non-reality is possible. Such a proposition is what Kant calls a ‘problematic’ judgement (cf. A 75/B 100; JL: 108). The argument defines problematic idealism and is identical with the fourth A-paralogism ‘of the ideality of outer relation’. The ‘ideality of outer relation’ is the doubtfulness or uncertainty of outer appearances.2 As a matter of fact, Kant takes no issue in the Refutation passage with the perceptual model of knowing one’s own mind. But even so and even without assuming that for Descartes immediate awareness itself amounts to knowledge, proposition (I2 ), ‘The only objects which I immediately cognise are representations in me’, is not acceptable to Kant. This is because the ‘I’, the owner of representations, cannot be said to be known, which always requires both concepts and intuition. The subject can neither be an ‘immaterial substance’ (AT IX-1: 207) in whose ‘metaphysical matter’ (AT VII: 175) states of consciousness inhere, nor can it be a purely logical representation. This is because we have no cognitive access to anything like the first thing, and a representation of the latter kind would be ineffective. A purely logical representation could not help to bring the subject itself, as distinguished from its conscious states, into temporal relations, which is required if they are to be states of that subject. The first proposition in the list, ‘I exist (as a thinking being)’, requires more comment. In the preamble of the Refutation passage, the proposition is rendered simply as ‘I am’. The parenthetical specification ‘as a thinking being’ derives from a variant formulation of the proposition,

2 Cf.

‘This uncertainty I call the ideality of outer appearances, and the doctrine of this ideality is called idealism[.]’ (A 367) See also A 366–369, A 491/B 519, KpV: 13f. n., and Prol.: 293.


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which Kant attributes to Descartes in the fourth A-paralogism: ‘I (as a thinking being) am.’ (A 367f.) According to the Guyer-Wood translation, Kant says that it is the only ‘empirical assertion (assertio)’ ‘Descartes … declares … to be indubitable’ (B 274). In fact, Kant uses the now obsolete German word ungezweifelt, which can just as well mean ‘undoubted’, rather than ‘indubitable’. The English translation suggests that Kant is referring to the famous ‘I am, I exist’ passage (cf. AT VII: 25). But since the permanence of the meditator (which is in the focus of the Refutation) is not established anywhere in the Meditations, Kant must not have this passage in mind. As will be substantiated in the next chapter, the argument for problematic idealism does occur in the Meditations but well after the ‘I exist’ passage, in the Sixth Meditation. One may presume to have reasons for rejecting this suggestion off hand. Is the conclusion that outer objects are doubtful not already drawn in the First Meditation? It is and it is not. The reasoning of the First Meditation is developed under the precept of radical doubt. It does not, and could not, incorporate determinate views on perception. The argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances, in contrast, does rely on determinate views on perception, and thus can only be given at a later stage of the Meditations. How these stages relate to one another is a question to be addressed in the next chapter. The question I wish to examine here is whether the conception of the subject presupposed by the argument for idealism is the same as the conception of the subject in the ‘I exist’ passage (the ‘cogito argument’). Let us focus on the subject that emerges from the ‘I exist’ passage. It is hardly possible to overemphasize how radically alienated the ego of the meditator is, at this stage, from the ordinary background of human life. We are living bodies in space; we know biographical facts about ourselves, our own names, where we live, and how we look; we use other personal pronouns in contrast to that of the first-person singular; and many other things. None of these things apply to the subject that emerges from Descartes’ reasoning. The indeterminacy of the subject of the meditator is emphatically reflected in the apparently odd remark made by Descartes after having established to his satisfaction that ‘I exist’ is the most certain principle: ‘I must be on my guard against carelessly taking something else

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to be this “I” and so making a mistake in the very item of knowledge that I maintain is the most certain and evident of all[.]’ (AT VII: 25). This bears directly on the question of whether the notion of the subject that is operative in the argument for idealism can be identical with that of the ‘I exist’ passage. If the ‘I’ is wholly indeterminate after Descartes’ famous argument, then there is nothing that excludes the possibility that it may turn out to be something physical after all. This is consistent with a meditator for whom virtually everything is subject to doubt but not with the subject required by the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances. The problematic idealist cannot maintain that the existence of external objects is uncertain because it is inferred from representations in the mind, when he is himself an inferred, and thus possibly external, object. Thus, the answer to the question of whether the ‘I am, I exist’ establishes the existence of a self that is sufficient for the argument for idealism, is: no. The conclusion can be further supported by underlining the importance for Descartes that the subject should be a substance. A substance is an entity capable of independent existence. The argument of the ‘I am, I exist’ passage does not rule out that the thing that thinks may be nothing but a particular range of rational capacities of a living body in space. This is also recognized by Kant, when he says that from the simple consciousness of the ego in ‘I exist thinking’ it is not possible to determine whether the ego exists as a substance or as an accident (cf. B 420, MdS: 419). If, however, Descartes can establish that the thinking being really is a substance sui generis, this will exclude the possibility that it might turn out to be essentially dependent on a physical body. The argument that aims at that conclusion is Descartes’ argument for the real distinction between mind and body. This argument is postponed in the seventh paragraph of the Second Meditation (AT VII: 27, ll. 24–28) and not approached until the Sixth. It should be clear that if the thing that thinks is a thinking being, a substance the essence of which is to think and for which it is accidental to be embodied, then the doctrine is unequivocally idealistic. Sensible ideas could then be conceptualized as modes of a metaphysical substance, whose changes are ultimately caused by material objects.


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This interpretation suggests that a requirement should be added for the concept of the subject which is needed to make the argument for problematic idealism consistent. I propose to phrase it in this way: (S) I can infer that there are objects in outer intuition from the representations I have of them, only if I, the subject of this inference, am not an (inferred) object in outer intuition myself, where ‘an object in outer intuition’ is a physical body in space. Note also that, contrary to what the first-person phrasing suggests, the ‘inference’ is not meant to be an operation we are necessarily aware of. One who argues that our perception of outer objects is indirect does not mean to say that we are consciously making inferences in every moment of our lives. There are several ways of specifying a notion of the subject that meets (S), each of which corresponds to a distinct variety of problematic idealism. The first variety contends that a purely logical understanding of the self is sufficient to make sense of an inference from immediate perceptions to external objects. The relevant notion of the self is exhausted by the function, attributed to the ‘I’, of ascribing mental activities and undergoings to oneself. This may be called a logical variety of problematic idealism. The second variety of problematic idealism supplements the logical construal of the self with a metaphysical one and takes them to be jointly sufficient for a consistent statement of the inference from immediate perceptions. Accordingly, the proposition that the self is an immaterial substance is included in the statement of the position. This is the metaphysical variety of problematic idealism. The distinction is needed to take care of an indeterminacy in the conception of the subject in Descartes and in the argument for idealism (cf. AT VII: 27, AT VII: 44f.). How extensive the subject’s consciousness of its own existence in time should be taken to be will be addressed at a later stage (cf. chapter 9). There is a supposition in play here that I wish to make explicit. On a very natural reading, condition (S) implies that the subject of the argument for idealism is not identical with its representations. But however natural that may be, it is denied by Hume:

7 The Position of Problematic Idealism


[W]hat we call a mind, is nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions, united together by certain relations, and suppos’d falsely, to be endow’d with a perfect simplicity and identity. (T I.iv.2: 207)

The question is whether there could be a third variety of problematic idealism with a self that is ‘nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions’ (T I.iv.6: 252). Hume appears to believe that there could be – at least at the time of publishing the first volume of the Treatise.3 However, it is easy to feel that he begins to pull the rug out from under his own feet when he raises the question ‘how far we are ourselves the objects of our senses’ (T I.iv.2: 189). He answers that the senses could never be capable of distinguishing between ourselves and outer objects (T I.iv.2: 190). The difficulty becomes evident when we ask whose senses are supposed to take what as their object. For ‘we’ are nothing but bundles of perceptions, and ‘our senses’ are presumably certain subsets of impressions which resemble each other in particular respects. If Hume’s theory of personal identity shows anything, it is that one cannot derive something like the idea of a subject only from experiential relations between perceptions (cf. Stroud 1977: 118–140). To cut a longer story short, I do not think that there could be a Humean variety of problematic idealism. I shall take it as read, then, that the subject of the inference to outer objects is not identical to its representations. Having stated the position of problematic idealism in this chapter, I proceed now to examine its role in Descartes. In particular, I shall consider its relation to Descartes’ use of scepticism. This will be done partly in preparation for an answer to the question of how scepticism relates to problematic idealism in the Meditations, partly for the sake of having an elementary exposition to draw on in the chapters on Kant and Wittgenstein.

3 See

T I.ii.4: 67; I.iii.3: 74; I.iv.2: 212. Alternatively, Hume’s point in these passages may not be that the inference from perceptions to external objects is uncertain but that it is unintelligible (cf. Stroud 1977: 98f., 112, Stapleford 2008: 16f., 21).

8 Scepticism and Idealism in Descartes

The goal of Descartes’ procedure in the First Meditation must be distinguished from the procedure itself and from the meditator’s attitude towards his former beliefs resulting from it. Descartes’ goal is a general overthrow of everything he has formerly accepted as true, effectuated as part of a project of laying new foundations for natural science. The procedure deployed in the First Meditation is the method of doubt. How the resulting attitude is to be described is controversial. It is, in any case, supposed to be an attitude of doubt, which leads to, or is part of, a general suspension of judgement. Before pursuing the argument of the last chapter further, I wish to examine the nature of this attitude. The relevance of this digression will become apparent only later, when we shall discuss propositions that stand fast for us in Wittgenstein (cf. chapters 1 and 15). At the beginning of Descartes’ Synopsis of the Meditations, we find the following characterization of the procedure: In the First Meditation reasons are provided which give us possible grounds for doubt about all things, especially material things, so long as we have no foundation for the sciences other than those which we have had up till now. Although the usefulness of such extensive doubt is not apparent at © The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_8



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first sight, its greatest benefit lies in freeing us from all our preconceived opinions, and providing the easiest route by which the mind may be led away from the senses. (AT VII: 12)

The method consists in presenting increasingly troubling reasons for the possibility of doubting ever larger parts of all that we believe. Descartes also mentions the aim of leading the mind away from the senses, whose importance for the interpretation of the Meditations is twofold. First, the passage can be taken to prepare the reader for one of the conclusions drawn only in the Sixth Meditation, namely, that it is uncertain whether the things around us really do possess all of the qualities we perceive them to have. Second, many commentators take this kind of passage to indicate that the meditator is a philosophical novice of a special type. They hold that the meditator of the early stages is still incapable of clear and distinct intellection (cf. AT V: 146). This will be seen to have immediate consequences for how to read the sceptical scenario that we might have epistemically deficient natures that make us err even in performing the most basic mathematical operations. In more recent times, it has become customary to present the sceptical challenge in conditional form: if I am now justified in holding that two plus three equals five, I must (it seems) also be justified in my belief that I have no epistemically deficient nature that constantly causes me to err in my calculations (cf. AT VII: 21; Stroud 1984a: 25–31). Since there is no way by which this could be ruled out, (it seems that) I cannot even claim to know that two plus three equals five. The reason for doubt is here not a reason to believe that I have an epistemically deficient nature. In the present example, the reason is that I lack a means by which to exclude it. The sceptical challenge consists in invoking a possibility that we appear to neglect in our common attitude of treating a great many things as known per default because we do not see how they could be wrong. The sceptic points out a way in which they could be wrong, and he appears to be right when he says that we are unable to rule out that this might be how things actually are with us. But, we may ask with Margaret Wilson, ‘in what sense, if at all, should the “doubts” generated by Descartes’s use of sceptical arguments be considered genuine doubts?’ (Wilson 1978: 10) To be ‘genuinely’ doubtful

8 Scepticism and Idealism in Descartes


of something, as this is ordinarily understood, is to believe that there is evidence to the contrary, though of an inconclusive kind. Accordingly, to be doubtful about a view, in the relevant sense, is to be uncertain about its truth, not to be convinced of its falsity. Descartes is ambiguous about whether he is raising doubt in this ordinary sense. At the beginning of the First Meditation, he states as a methodological precept to ‘reject as if absolutely false everything in which I could imagine the least doubt’ (AT VII: 18, ll. 8–10). Clearly, being able to imagine the least doubt in a view is nothing that commonly leads us to reject it. This remains unaltered by talking, instead, of ‘suspending judgement’ (cf. AT VII: 21f.). At some point, Descartes seems to suggest that he is removing opinions on account of their admitting a very small degree of doubt (removendo … illud omne quod vel minimum dubitationis admittit) (AT VII: 24, ll. 5f.). I may, however, believe that the probability of being killed on a flight I am on is seven million to one, but I cannot entertain doubt of a corresponding degree about my safe arrival. We ‘have doubts’ when the balance scale of assent and denial is swinging, and that admits of degrees but not of tiny fractions. Towards the end of the First Meditation, Descartes declares that his conclusion that ‘there is not one of my former beliefs about which doubt may not properly be raised … is based on powerful and well thought-out reasons’ (AT VII: 21). In a similar vein, he says elsewhere that ‘in order to get rid of every kind of preconceived opinion, all we need to do is resolve not to affirm or deny anything which we have previously affirmed or denied’. He seems to think that his general reasons for doubt are sufficient for ‘expelling from our belief [chasser hors de sa creance] everything we have previously accepted’ (AT IX-1: 204; cf. AT VI: 31f.). In the Seventh Replies, on the other hand, he explicitly distinguishes doubt ‘in practical life’ from ‘metaphysical doubt’ (AT VII: 459–462, 473f.). Referring to the ‘extreme’ doubt of the First Meditation, he notes: ‘It was doubt of this type to which I was referring when I said that everything that could give rise to the slightest suspicion should be regarded as a sound reason for doubt.’ (AT VII: 460) Descartes does not say that the difference between metaphysical doubt and doubt in practical life is merely one of degree. He is acknowledging that what could give rise to the slightest suspicion is not a sound reason for doubt, as this is ordinarily understood, but should be


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regarded as such a reason. As Dennis Kambouchner has noted, this more realistic attitude is also reflected in several formulations in the Meditations: [T]he subject of the most extensive doubt, from the very beginning, not only keeps the moment in view in which this doubt will be abandoned or dispelled;1 …. It is also true that there is no moment at which these opinions or beliefs are really abandoned – a reason why Descartes in his Seventh Replies merely talks of try[ing] to convince myself, and even of want[ing] to try to convince myself for some time (me velle aliquandiu conari mihi persuadere) to resist the things I had carelessly believed before [AT VII: 465, ll. 19–20]. Put differently, the rationale which underlies the enterprise of doubt is not only meant to delimit its application in advance: it also informs the meditating subject that there is little chance of succeeding in persuading himself; and the strange enterprise of deceiving oneself (seipsum fallere) has precisely no sense and acceptability – within the frame of an inquiry of the recta rerum perceptio – except to the extent in which it cannot fully succeed. (Kambouchner 2005: 230, transl. B. R.)

Perhaps the most striking formulation of this kind occurs in the last paragraph of the First Meditation: ‘I shall consider myself as not having hands or eyes, or flesh, or blood or senses, but as falsely believing that I have all these things.’ (AT VII: 22f.) This is of a piece with the ‘strange exercise of deceiving oneself ’ noted by Kambouchner. For if I consider myself as falsely believing something, I am abstracting from my actual attitudes towards the object. As Wittgenstein says: ‘If there were a verb meaning “to believe falsely”, it would not have a meaningful first person indicative.’ (PPF §92 = PI II: 190i) I can only suppose, or imagine, that I falsely believe something. If metaphysical doubt really were to consist in ‘expelling from our belief everything we have previously accepted’ (AT IX-1: 204),

1 Kambouchner

might be thinking of a passage in Descartes’ Notae in Programma: ‘Is there anyone so dull as to imagine that the author of a book with such a title did not know, when writing the first pages, what he had undertaken to demonstrate in the rest of the book?’ (AT VIII-2: 368)

8 Scepticism and Idealism in Descartes


whence the tendency of the meditator to adopt an observer’s stance on himself precisely where he purports to give expression to this attitude?2 Some commentators have tried to defend the idea that radical doubt is, in some sense, real doubt. Ferdinand Alquié is a notable example: ‘[Descartes] tells us that days and weeks, and even whole months will be needed … to understand his First Meditation [cf. AT VII: 130]. This means that it is not sufficient to say, “I doubt”, but that it is necessary to doubt in actual fact.’ (Alquié 1955: 106, transl. B. R.) This seems to me most difficult to maintain with regard to the scenario of an omnipotent god who causes everything to perceptually appear to me as it does appear now without anything actually existing (cf. AT VII: 21, ll. 1–7). In ordinary cases of false perception, we can give a causal account of how the misperception comes about, while we have absolutely no idea how a deceiving god may influence a body-less spirit. The scenario should be placed in a tradition of non-realistic writing, such as hagiography (cf. Diamond 2004: 51–55). This ‘explanation’ has much more in common with miracle stories than with an account of how things really are. Another notable example is Margaret Wilson. Wilson’s main consideration in favour of her view is that ‘on the conception of the Meditations as intended to bring about a sweeping revision of one’s conceptual scheme, and the abandonment of long-standing “prejudices”, it seems that these “doubts” can hardly be construed as completely nugatory’. She adds in parenthesis: ‘As Descartes might put it, the cause must have as much reality as the effect!’ (Wilson 1978: 11) She argues that the dream argument ‘is to prepare us for the idea that there is much falsity in the ordinary sensory image of reality’ (Wilson 1978: 39), and generally that ‘the doubts in Meditation I are supposed to be the first important steps toward genuine, far-reaching alterations in our former beliefs’ (Wilson 1978: 44). It is not difficult to agree with this, as ‘preparations’, ‘first steps’, etc., are vague concepts. The important question, it seems to me, is whether it follows from the arguments of the First Meditation that corporeal objects are certain to have the measurable properties but not the sensible ones we perceive in them, as Descartes will ultimately argue. To this the answer


borrow the expression ‘observer’s stance on oneself ’ from Moran 2001: 153, 161.


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can only be negative. The sceptical arguments of the First Meditation have no differential effect on our beliefs, so as to render certain beliefs about material objects doubtful but not certain others. The point made by Kambouchner and others is not that one cannot believe what one wants to believe, which is nothing Descartes ever denied. It is that one cannot will to stop believing the things one finds most reasonable to believe (cf. Broughton 2002: 59, Kambouchner 2005: 233f.).3 This is not to say that such a rational being is logically impossible; it is to say that Descartes’ picture is incompatible with human intellectual activity as it contingently is. I agree with Janet Broughton when she says that all that Descartes can plausibly do is ‘bracket’ beliefs and engage in the work of imagining things to be other than we think them to be (cf. Broughton 2002: 59f.). In this way, ‘Descartes prepares a place in his mental economy for the eventual conclusion that colors and sounds should not be attributed to objects’ (Broughton 2002: 60). There is a further question that has puzzled commentators and is connected to an aspect of Descartes’ approach that I have so far neglected. It used to be a point of agreement among commentators, including such towering figures as Guéroult and possibly Alquié, that the deceiver god in the First Meditation is meant to cast doubt on clear and distinct intellection of mathematical propositions.4 Descartes’ example for a mathematical proposition is very elementary: 2 + 3 = 5 (cf. AT VII: 21, ll. 9f.). Now, if, on the one hand, the meditator does not perceive the calculation clearly and distinctly, then it is consistent with Descartes’ doctrine to say that he can disown belief in it. But then he would be ‘disowning’ something he did not really possess. If, on the other hand, he does perceive it clearly and distinctly, withholding assent can only have the force of ‘bracketing’. This is just the problem the authors of the Seventh Objections confront Descartes with (cf. AT VII: 457f.). In his reply, Descartes repeats his view about clear and distinct perception: ‘So long as

3 Kant

holds a similar view: ‘The will has no direct influence on what we hold true. … Nor is there suspension of judgement, which belongs to the principles of lazy philosophy, so as not to require a decision on anything and to appear clever in one’s laziness or in order to inspire disbelief.’ (Ak. XVI: 398, R 2508, 1769–1775, transl. B. R.) 4 See Guéroult 1953: I, 31, 39, 179; Alquié 1955: 113f., 140; Frankfurt 1970: 90.

8 Scepticism and Idealism in Descartes


we attend to a truth which we perceive very clearly, we cannot doubt it.’ He then affirms that ‘in the First Meditation, … I was supposing that I was not attending to anything that I clearly perceived’ (AT VII: 460; cf. AT V: 146). If Descartes is supposing that the meditator does not perceive clearly and distinctly that 2 + 3 = 5, then clear and distinct intellection is not at issue in the corresponding passage (cf. Frankfurt 1970: 84–92, Hill 2012: 57f., 63). According to commentators like Frankfurt, we have to suppose that the meditator in the First Meditation is a philosophical novice with an empiricist mindset. This may not be viable as an approach to the First Meditation as a whole, whose addressees are likely to be more varied (cf. Wilson 1978: 38–42). It does, however, provide a solution to the problem mentioned in the last paragraph. The meditator is still too strongly attached to the senses to be capable of clear and distinct intellection, and this explains how he can be shaken about the truth of 2 + 3 = 5 by the argument that we might have an epistemically deficient nature. As has been noted by James Hill, there is a danger in this line of interpretation: To say that the meditator has a mindset might sound as if there could be other beginners with different mindsets to that of Descartes’ meditator. This might, then, threaten the meditator’s status as the archetypal beginner that Descartes clearly intends him to be. (Hill 2012: 13)

Things are even worse than this, it seems to me. The meditator is not an archetypal ‘I’ at all, but a sensualist of a peculiar stripe, so that at least parts of the First Meditation would have better been written in the third person. It is certainly correct that, as Hill goes on to say, varieties of empiricism were prevalent in Descartes’ days – Gassendi, the author of the Fifth Objections, is a notable example – and that his focus on empiricism was therefore fully legitimate (cf. Hill 2012: 15). There is no disputing this, but, as far as the question is concerned whether metaphysical doubt is actual doubt, it clearly stacks the deck. We cannot doubt that 2 + 3 = 5, but since some peculiar figure is the first-person narrator, he is right to say, ‘I can doubt whether 2 + 3 equals 5’ – only that this ‘I’ is not me, the reader. The meditator purports to speak for me, but in fact he does


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not. I conclude that the possible empiricist mindset of the meditator in no way compromises the contention supported here that metaphysical doubt is not actually entertained doubt. This will be seen to be consistent with the view that there is no way in which metaphysical doubt could manifest itself outside of the philosopher’s study – a view I attribute to Wittgenstein (cf. chapter 15). I hasten to add that this should not be taken as an attempt to belittle the problem of scepticism, whose seriousness is not a function of a purported actuality of the doubt resulting from the First Meditation. ∗

I shall now proceed with the argument of the last chapter. The claim that the argument of the uncertainty of outer appearances is a positive Cartesian doctrine still needs to be substantiated. The sceptical First Meditation, I suggested, has no differential effect on the kinds of properties we are, or are not, justified in positing in corporeal objects. This conclusion, it will be seen, depends on an indirect model of perception, which is only introduced after the First Meditation. The indirect model of perception is the backbone of the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances, the argument that defines problematic idealism (cf. chapter 7). Through an appeal to the principles that whatever is clearly and distinctly perceived is true and that God can be no deceiver, Descartes is able to restrict the sceptical force of the argument to sensible qualities only. An indirect model of perception, as it is traditionally attributed to Descartes, involves the identification of the direct object of perception with something in the mind.5 This can be seen to happen in the Second Meditation: (a) I am now seeing light, hearing a noise, feeling heat. But I am asleep, so all that is false. Yet I certainly seem to see, to hear, and to be warmed. This cannot be false; what is called ‘having a sensory perception’ is strictly just this, and in this restricted sense of the term it is simply thinking. (AT VII: 29)

5 See,

e.g. Guéroult 1953: I, 140–142; Alquié 1955: 184–186; Rorty 1979: 45–51; Yolton 1975: 149f., 152; and Dlugos 1996: 317, 323, 327.

8 Scepticism and Idealism in Descartes


(b) … the corporeal things of which images are formed in my thought, and which the senses investigate … (AT VII: 29)

In passage (a), Descartes identifies ‘perceptions’ in the strict sense with modes of thinking, and shortly after that, in (b), begins to compare them to ‘images’. These moves are interlinked: turning sensory perception into modes of thinking introduces a gap between perceptions and what they are perceptions of. This is a gap that in some way or other needs to be bridged, which is a task that falls to a large extent to Descartes’ adequacy principle of causation. The adequacy principle of causation as applied to ideas says that the cause of an idea, the object, must have at least as much formal reality as is, per representation, in the idea. It is difficult to see how this principle should not imply that the object is different from what is represented in the idea, as no natural object can be its own cause.6 One of Descartes’ attempted proofs of God’s existence as well as his proof of the existence of material objects rely on the adequacy principle of causation (cf. AT VII: 40f.; 79, ll. 15–22). This is why one cannot derive an argument against viewing Descartes as a representationalist from the fact that he pays no attention to the ‘special difficulties’ besetting representationalism (cf. Clemenson 2007: 2). His lack of attention can be explained by his confidence in a perfectly sweeping solution to the problem of the objective validity of ideas. In Descartes, ideas are not defined as, but only compared to, pictures. This can be gleaned from the following quotations selected from the Third Meditation: (c) Some of my thoughts are as it were the images of things, and it is only in these cases that the term ‘idea’ is strictly appropriate. (AT VII: 37; cf. 181) (d) And since there can be no ideas which are not as it were of things, if it is true that cold is nothing but the absence of heat, the idea which represents it to me as something real and positive deserves to be called false[.] (AT VII: 44; cf. AT IX-1: 34f.)

6 For an interpretation of the causal principle as applied to ideas, see Broughton 2002: 159–162. For

a critical assessment of its role in the first argument for God’s existence, see Curley 1978: 125–135.


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These passages suggest a distinction between the content of the idea, the idea itself, and the object of which it is an idea. I agree with the way Lex Newman uses the comparison with paintings: the content of an idea corresponds to ‘the object portrayed, as portrayed’ in a painting, which is different from the painted canvas, itself corresponding to a particular mode of the mind, and different from the ‘ultimate object of perception’, or the depicted real object, respectively (cf. Newman 2009: 139f.). The object portrayed, as portrayed is what we see in the pained canvas – a determinate form or gestalt – and only of that, not of the paint on the canvas, does it make sense to say that it resembles or does not resemble the depicted object (cf. Hyman 2006: 60, 66, 98). The same holds for the content of a perceptual idea and the ultimate object of perception (cf. Newman 2009: 143). It is to these contents and these objects that the adequacy principle of causation should be taken to apply.7 The Sixth Meditation features several passages where Descartes makes it quite clear that the existence of outer objects can only be inferred from the ideas they produce in the mind: (e) I must pay … attention to the senses, and see whether the things which are perceived by means of that mode of thinking which I call ‘sensory perception’ provide me with any sure argument for the existence of corporeal things. (AT VII: 74) (f ) [A]lthough the ideas were, strictly speaking, the only immediate objects of my sensory awareness, it was not unreasonable for me to think that the items which I was perceiving through the senses were things quite distinct from my thought, namely bodies which produced the ideas. (AT VII: 75) (g) Since the sole source of my knowledge of [outer] things was the ideas themselves, the supposition that the things resembled the ideas was bound to occur to me. (AT VII: 75) (h) [Nature] does not appear to teach us to draw any conclusion from … sensory perceptions about things located outside us without waiting until the intellect has examined the matter. (AT VII: 82)

7 This

paragraph is in essential disagreement with Perler 1996: 81–84, 93, 97, 114, 116.

8 Scepticism and Idealism in Descartes


Sensory perception does not provide us with direct access to objects in space, as is evidenced by quotation (e). Ideas are (f ) ‘the only immediate objects’ of sensory awareness and thus (g) the ‘sole source’ of knowledge of outer things. Their existence can only be inferred from ideas in the mind, as is clear from (f ) and (h). This is the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances. The resulting epistemological insufficiency of human sensibility is compensated by the proofs Descartes gives of the real distinction of mind and body, and the existence of corporeal things. The following quotation shows that the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances is not repudiated by Descartes but only restricted to sensible qualities: (i) God … has given me great propensity to believe that [these ideas] are produced by corporeal things. So I do not see how God could be understood to be anything but a deceiver if the ideas were transmitted from a source other than corporeal things. It follows that corporeal things exist. They may not all exist in a way that exactly corresponds with my sensory grasp of them, for in many cases the grasp of the senses is very obscure and confused. But at least they possess all the properties which I clearly and distinctly understand[.] (AT VII: 80)

This is not the whole proof of the existence of corporeal things, which begins with the observation that sensible ideas are passively received and require an active power for their production. Descartes then applies the adequacy principle of causation to these ideas and their causes and invokes God’s veracity to buttress the principle that everything that is clearly and distinctly perceived is true. It is surprising that the argument equally relies on the divine guarantee that our ‘great propensity’ to believe that our sensible perceptions are of corporeal things can be relied upon to establish their existence.8 These details, however, do not matter crucially for the general point Descartes is preparing here, which is my sole concern at present. Corporeal things are certain to possess only the measurable

8 This premise is absent from the corresponding proof in Principia philosophiae

(cf. AT VIII-1: 40f.).


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properties that we perceive in them,9 while sensible qualities remain subject to the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances. This is the revision Descartes was aiming at right from the beginning of the Meditations.10 In Dioptrics, his earlier-published treatise on optics, Descartes gives an a posteriori argument to a stronger conclusion concerning sensible qualities. He rejects the assumptions that there is ‘something material’ sent out by outer objects, received by the senses and transmitted to the brain, where the mind is able to inspect it, and that this something bears a similarity to outer objects, which it imparts on our ideas. His reason is that it is impossible to explain how this similarity could be transmitted from the object to the retina and from the retina through nerves to the brain (cf. AT VI: 85, 112). A different but related argument is that even if sensible qualities like colours were to be the kind of properties our senses represent them to be, they could not affect our perceptual apparatus so as to make us perceive them.11 Thus, while the Meditations argue that we have no reason to suppose that sensible qualities, as we perceive them, resemble the properties of outer objects, the Dioptrics concludes that it is impossible that they can. In this way, Descartes’ metaphysical work makes room for the earlier-reached conclusion in natural philosophy. As we have seen, Descartes himself gives an argument for the existence of material objects. This is how he attempts to limit the scope of the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances to sensible qualities. For a reader who is not convinced by the principle of clear and distinct intellection and does not think it rationally admissible to invoke God as a guarantor, the argument for idealism remains a serious issue. Such a reader, I contend, was Kant.

9 ‘Mathematical

demonstrations have this kind of certainty [i.e. absolute certainty], as does the knowledge that material things exist; and the same goes for all evident reasoning about material things.’ (AT VIII-1: 328) 10 See also AT VI: 85, 112, 128–130, AT VIII-1: 322, and Hyman 2006: 28, 113–126. 11 See AT VI: 128–130, AT VIII-1: 322, and Hyman 2006: 28, 113–126.

9 Transcendental Proofs and Indubitability

As has already been noted, the permanence of the subject, which is Kant’s point of attack, remains unargued for in the Meditations until the argument for the real distinction of mind and body. As Kant underlines in the section on the fourth A-paralogism, the essential thing about idealism is not so much the non-existence of material objects but the denial that material objects are directly cognised (cf. A 368f.). The argument he deploys to refute this position is often referred to as a ‘transcendental argument’.1 It has been observed that Kant does not actually use the term ‘transcendental argument’ in a way that would fit the arguments of the Analytic (cf. Hookway 1999: 180, n. 8). Rather, Kant refers to his own demonstrations as ‘transcendental proofs’.2 The expression ‘transcendental argument’ occurs only twice in the Critique, where it refers to a piece of reasoning that purports to establish a transcendent conclusion, one for which no correlate is determinable in possible experience (cf. A 589/B 617, A 627/B 655). A closer inspection reveals that the notion

1 See,

e.g. Rorty 1971: 4, Stern 2000: 12, 143, Cassam 2007: 54–57, 65, Ritter 2009: 65. fourth section of the Doctrine of Method, ‘The discipline of pure reason with regard to its proofs’ (cf. A 782/B 810–A 794/B 822).

2 See particularly the

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of a ‘proof ’ is not exclusively used for demonstrations that are accepted by Kant. The Second Paralogism, for example, is referred to as both, first as an ‘argument’ and then, in a footnote to the passage, as a ‘proof ’ (cf. A 352). The same is true of the metaphysical arguments examined in the Dialectic (cf. A 430/B 458, A 615/B 643). Kant certainly has a reason to use ‘argument’ rather than ‘proof ’ in the previously referenced passages (i.e. in A 589/B 617 and A 627/B 655), but this reason is not terminological. In general, calling a demonstration a ‘proof ’ implies that it is accepted as conclusive, while calling something an ‘argument’ implies only that it weighs in favour of a certain view. A cross-check on the uses of ‘proof ’ and ‘transcendental proof ’ reveals that ‘transcendental proof ’ is a generic term, not necessarily opposed to ‘transcendental argument’. Accordingly, we may say that there are legitimate and illegitimate transcendental proofs, or arguments, according to Kant. A legitimate transcendental proof is one that meets the requirements given in the Doctrine of Method. I wish to single out one of these requirements for a preliminary discussion, since it prompts some broader issues than do interpretative questions concerning the Refutation of Idealism. It is that a legitimate transcendental proof should not proceed by refutation of the opposite (cf. A 789/B 817, A 793/B 821). This means that if the Refutation is a reductio ad absurdum, as maintained by many commentators, it fails to meet one of the requirements for legitimate transcendental proofs.3 Naturally, this has not escaped their attention, but they have remained unperturbed in maintaining both that the Refutation is a reductio and that it is a transcendental argument. The requirement has played no role for the notion of a transcendental argument as it has been used in analytic philosophy since Strawson floated the term in Individuals (cf. Strawson 1959: 40). Strawson uses the term in connection with an ambitious transcendental argument, one that moves from the existence of a conceptual scheme to the existence of material bodies (cf. Strawson 1959: 39). The arguments from Individuals which

3 The

Refutation has been interpreted as a reductio by Förster 1989: 14, Allison 2004: 289, 291, Caranti 2007: 124–127, Franks 2014: 24, and others.

9 Transcendental Proofs and Indubitability


are critcized in Barry Stroud’s influential 1968 article, on the other hand, are both reductio arguments. They both treat the sceptic’s claim as an assumption that leads to a contradiction of sorts and conclude from this that the sceptic has failed to doubt what he purported to doubt (cf. Strawson 1959: 35, 105f.). I say ‘contradiction of sorts’ because it is not a contradiction of the form ‘p and non-p’ that is relevant for Strawson but one of the form ‘p and nonsensical-p’. Stroud has raised fundamental objections against the validity of these anti-sceptical transcendental arguments which have remained unanswerable (cf. Stroud 1968: 245–248 = 13–17). A transcendental argument cannot move unproblematically from the existence of a conceptual scheme to the existence of material bodies. For even if it were true that expressing doubt concerning the existence of material objects is senseless within our conceptual scheme, a sceptical scenario could still be actual. What seems to be needed is a ‘bridge of necessity’ to the existence of material objects and how, in general, we believe them to be (cf. Stroud 1994: 159). This would have to be included in the condition of our having the conceptual scheme that we have. Only a principle will do that is ultimately independent of the human epistemic situation, otherwise the sceptic could always plausibly insist that even when everything looks as if the condition for inner experience, or whatever is in question, is fulfilled, things could nevertheless be otherwise. Something is needed to secure the claim that only the actual fulfillment of the condition makes whatever is in question possible, while even the most perfect appearance of its being fulfilled does not (cf. Stroud 1968: 255 = 24). This can only be secured by a principle that permits us to conclude that some statements about material objects are true as soon as the relevant concepts make sense (cf. Stroud 1968: 247 = 15f.). Stroud thinks that within Kant’s framework it is transcendental idealism that bears that function; it is what allows Kant to maintain, against the sceptic, that how we must think of objects necessarily corresponds to how they are (cf. Stroud 1989: 209). Most Kant interpreters would deny that this is the problem transcendental idealism is set to solve, but that does not make the problem disappear. One of the commentators who think that the premises of the Refutation ought to be ‘immune to the hyperbolic doubt emanating from the demon hypothesis and its modern variants’ is Allison (Allison 2004: 291).


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Since transcendental idealism is not an answer to First-Meditation scepticism, the task will naturally fall to the Refutation. Unfortunately for this view, there is very little in both Kant and Descartes that supports this contention. The argument for problematic idealism is not introduced in the Meditations under the precept of radical doubt but stated as a positive Cartesian doctrine (cf. chapter 8). The argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances is invoked only after the heuristic hypothesis of an evil demon has given way to a maxim of restraining judgement to what is clearly and distinctly perceived (cf. AT VII: 62). Thus, the relevant requirement is the weaker maxim, according to which Kant’s premises must be clear and distinct. It will be objected that this means renouncing a Kantian answer to radical scepticism. Indeed, this aim will no longer be attainable if the standard of indubitability is abandoned. Naturally, the question should not be what is desirable but whether the premises of the Refutation are really intended to be immune to radical doubt. What view is best supported by the text? Once it is no longer taken for granted that the Refutation is directed against radical scepticism, textual considerations clearly speak against reading it as such an argument. Most importantly, Kant gives a very clear statement of problematic idealism that has little to do with the possibility of rational doubt (cf. chapter 7). To say that the Refutation of Idealism is a successful argument against problematic idealism does not imply that it refutes First-Meditation scepticism. It would be a mistake to believe that doing away with the ‘veil of ideas’ conception of experience will do away with scepticism. Also a ‘no veil’ account must leave room for experiential error, hallucination, and similar phenomena (cf. Wright 1986: 444). The first question to ask, then, is whether problematic idealism is immune to radical doubt. Fully explicated, the first premise of the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances reads: ‘I am conscious of my existence in time as a thinking being.’ How extensive should this duration be taken to be? Supposing the proposition to be maintained in the face of radical doubt, it certainly can only be very limited, as there is no possibility for the subject to determine a priori whether or not the ‘I’ in the present utterance of ‘I exist’ is referring to the same utterer, or thinker, as the ‘I’ in former utterances or thoughts. The ‘I’ can only be certain that it exists now, whatever that means. Its real nature and identity cannot be

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considered as settled at a stage where the precept of radical doubt is still operative. The ego of the meditator could still turn out to be material rather than immaterial; or even as the evil demon, spellbound by God. Consistent with this outlook, Allison construes the idealist as claiming only momentary consciousness. His reason is that ‘a “thin” conception of self-knowledge’ will be acceptable to the meditator even under the precept of radical doubt. He writes: In order to fit Kant’s characterization, [empirical self-consciousness] must have a diachronic dimension and consist of at least two successive representations, which are cognized as such. But it need not for that reason be construed as knowledge of one’s previous mental history, except in a minimal sense that does not involve any reliance on memory or, more important, any possibility of error. (Allison 2004: 290)

Allison believes that there is an ‘obvious reason for preferring such a reading’ of the Refutation: ‘Since it is intended as a reductio of the Cartesian position, its success is crucially dependent on finding a premise that the latter will accept.’ (Allison 2004: 291) Apparently, what he has in mind is a temporally minimal perception I have when it seems to me, for example, that I am warmed. This is what Descartes termed ‘having a sensory perception’ in the narrow sense (AT VII: 29). The relevant kind of self-knowledge, according to Allison, consists in the corresponding certainty ‘that I am conscious of myself as the currently existing subject who has these [perceptions]’ (Allison 2004: 290). There are several problems with this view. First, it does not occur to Descartes’ meditator that he could doubt his memory and thus his continued existence in time, not even where he is operating under the precept of radical doubt. At some point he says that his continued existence can only be explained by an external cause. He says that ‘it does not follow from the fact that I existed a little while ago that I must exist now, unless there is some cause which as it were creates me afresh at this moment – that is, which preserves me’ (AT VII: 48f.). Obviously, he can only ask for an explanation of his continued existence if he is supposing that he is existing permanently. And this is so even where the meditator admits that he is certain of his existence only when, and as long as, he is


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thinking (AT VII: 27). He does not suspect that his memory might betray him about his former conscious existence (cf. also AT VII: 44f.). Second, Kant’s terminology speaks against a ‘thin’ conception of selfknowledge. It would be odd to refer to self-awareness during a fraction of a second as ‘consciousness of one’s own existence in time’. Allison himself concedes that this way of putting the point speaks for the interpretation ‘that he is talking about a subject’s knowledge of its own mental history’ (Allison 2004: 289). In his exposition of empirical idealism in the fourth A-paralogism, Kant characterizes the ‘object’ of inner sense as ‘I myself with all my representations’ (A 368). He does not feel a need to restrict the range of representations to the scope of temporal immediacy. More probably, he means that all my representations, in particular the sensory ones, are involved in the ‘empirically determined’ consciousness of my existence in time (B 275). Third, if the premises of the Refutation are to be indubitable, so must be the first premise. The first premise says: ‘I am conscious of my existence as determined in time.’ (B 275) If this premise is interpreted as indubitable, one has to admit that the real nature of the subject of this consciousness may turn out to be of any kind whatsoever (cf. chapter 7). The problematic idealist, however, cannot acquiesce to the possibility that his own self may be a living being with spatiotemporal existence. For then it would belong to the kind of things whose existence are supposed to be uncertain. If the real nature of the subject is taken to be as uncertain as outer appearances, it is not possible to argue forcefully for the doubtfulness of the latter. Fourth, it is questionable that the first premise of the Refutation can be coherently interpreted as epistemically indubitable. Allison describes a case of knowing that oneself is presently having two successive representations, in the sense of ‘(subjective) objects’ of ‘introspective consciousness’, which excludes ‘any possibility of error’ (Allison 2004: 290). How do we know that this cannot be false? Allison suggests that it is clear by introspection. This is something Wittgenstein has taken issue with. The idea of introspection, he says, is not analogous to ‘seeing’ but to ‘looking’. Accordingly, I could look to see that it seems to me that I am warmed, or having a toothache, only if there were to be such a thing as discovering

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whether or not this is the case (cf. ML: 99).4 But as far as it is possible to discover how things are with me, it is also possible to be uncertain. Allison, however, wants to have it both ways: that there should be something we genuinely check upon but in a way that excludes the possibility of error. Hacker makes a suggestion that I think is exactly what is required here. The assertion ‘I always know that I am recollecting a determined past experience’, when I do so, means that I am always able to represent myself as recollecting it, which I might do correctly or incorrectly (cf. Hacker 2012: 22). To represent oneself as recollecting something will in most cases consist in telling someone on demand what I remember, which may or may not agree with the facts as otherwise known. If I am generally unable to tell you what I remember, there is nothing for others to find out about me, no object of common knowledge at all. This, if anything, is the ‘subjective object’ Allison and Prauss are talking about.5 A person’s recollecting a past experience and that person’s representing himor herself as remembering something is what constitutes the ‘subjective object’. The fiction of first-personal doubt, uncertainty, or ignorance at this point undercuts the very idea of the object in question. There is nevertheless something right about Allison’s ‘indubitability approach’ to the Refutation, as one might call it. Kant will have to proceed from something that is either not doubted by the idealist or cannot be doubted relative to other claims that he makes. To exploit this idea, however, he need not invoke the difficult idea of unconditionally indubitable premises. Nor is he bound to argue that consciousness of external things is not mediate because that is inconsistent with other presuppositions of the idealist, so that we can conclude, by reductio, that it must be immediate. It could also be the other way around, namely, that the immediate consciousness of external things is necessarily combined with inner experience, and therefore not mediate.

4 There

is more on introspection in my discussion of the ‘beetle in a box’ passage of Wittgenstein’s Investigations (cf. chapter 18 and the subsection on Mulhall in chapter 19). 5 The notion of a ‘subjective object’ is crucial for Prauss’ interpretation of ‘appearance’ and ‘perception’ in Kant (cf. Prauss 1971: 35, 55f., 76, 195, 113, 122f., 255, 289, 292, 316).


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I am now turning to the section of the Method of Doctrine entitled ‘The discipline of pure reason in regard to its proofs’, where Kant provides rules for admissible transcendental proofs. The specific problem about establishing propositions in these realms of inquiry is that ‘it is impossible for me to go beyond the concept of an object a priori without a special clue which is to be found outside of this concept’ (A 782/B 810). Philosophical inquiry must derive its clue from intuition, which is the only faculty by which we are able to amplify the content of a cognition of an object beyond a given representation of the same thing. This is an option only if the concepts occurring in a transcendental proof are related to the possibility of empirical intuition:6 The proof does not show … that the given concept (e.g., of that which happens) leads directly to another concept (that of a cause), for such a transition would be a leap for which nothing could be held responsible [ein Sprung, der sich gar nicht verantworten ließe]; rather it shows that experience itself, hence the object of experience, would be impossible without such a connection. (A 783/B 811; cf. A 9/B 13)

In the Second Analogy, Kant aims at refuting the sceptic about necessary connection by showing that without such a concept he cannot get a grip on the idea of perceiving an objective event through empirical intuition. The point could be put as follows: ‘You cannot construct the idea of such an experience coherently without making use of such-andsuch a principle.’ Accordingly, the first distinctive mark of admissible transcendental arguments is that its terms are not predicated of A and B directly but used in principles for their cognition.7 The second requirement for admissible transcendental proofs states ‘that for each transcendental proposition only a single proof can be found’ (A 787/B 815). It is not clear whether the Refutation meets this requirement. In the preface, Kant refers to the Refutation as a supplement

6 The 7 See

point is carefully worked out in Stapleford 2008: 40–57. also KpV: 53; A 737/B 765; Prol. 257f.

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‘in the way of proof ’ (Beweisart). It is a proof with a new form compared to Kant’s first-edition criticism of problematic idealism in the fourth paralogism. This suggests that more than one proof can be given for what is in question, namely proofs with varying forms, which is supported by a summary of four ways of refuting problematic idealism found in his later reflections on the problem (cf. Ak. XVIII: 613–615, R 6313, 1790– 91). However, preceding the summary and after the draft of a line of argument that is recognizably that of the Refutation, there is the remark: That even the empirical determination of one’s own existence in time is not possible without the consciousness of one’s relation to things outside us constitutes the ground why this is the only possible refutation of idealism. (Ak. XVIII: 612, R 6312, 1790)

The same statement is made in the B-preface of the Critique (cf. B xxxix). In an attempt at reconciliation, one might argue that there is only one strict proof of the objectivity of outer sense, which at the same time amounts to a refutation of idealism, while there are several other ways to show that idealism is false or incoherent (cf. Caranti 2007: 124f.). This, however, is hardly consistent with what actually happens in the Refutation passage. Since I do not place much weight on this requirement, I am little worried by the lack of a satisfying solution, so no attempt will be made here to provide one. The third requirement states that ‘[transcendental proofs] must never be apagogic but always ostensive’ (A 789/B 817). An ‘apagogic’ proof yields the desired conclusion by refutation of its opposite. Kant speaks explicitly of modus tollens in this connection (cf. A 791/B 819, JL: 52). It is the threat of transcendental illusion that provides the rationale for excluding apagogic proofs from the realm of pure inquiry: ‘Apagogic proof ’, Kant writes, ‘can be allowed only in those sciences where it is impossible to substitute that which is subjective in our representations for that which is objective[.]’ (A 791/B 819) As will be seen, the Refutation uses a negative premise in a disjunctive inference. The soundness of a disjunctive inference depends on the logical division of a concept, which is represented in the predicates of a disjunctive premise (cf. JL: 107, §29). In the Refutation argument, the


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general concept is that of objects of direct awareness, and the members are objects of inner and objects of outer sense. Although the Refutation does not exploit an inconsistency in the position of the idealist to derive the objectivity of outer sense, it is unclear what makes it essentially different from a proof by refutation of the opposite, as it depends just as much on a contradictory opposition, namely on that of inner and outer sense. Moreover, the force of the Refutation derives partly from a modus tollens held in position. It would follow from denying both members of the disjunction that we have no empirical consciousness of our own existence in time. Finally, there are formulations in the Refutation section that seem to go against the very division of inner and outer experience, on which even the disjunctive syllogism depends. The argument suddenly looks to be directed against the idealist’s conception of our relationship to the world. If one is responsive to the text, it rather seems to plead for a different understanding of inner and outer sense. Kant’s requirements for admissible transcendental proofs come to appear too coarse-grained to assess the Refutation, as the latter is too many things at once.

10 The Subject in the Refutation of Idealism

I shall now turn to examine the structure and force of Kant’s Refutation of Idealism. I consider the Refutation to be a successful but more modest transcendental argument than is widely appreciated. It is one of the few transcendental arguments in the Critique that do not rely on transcendental idealism. According to the reconstruction defended here, the Refutation is not aimed at First-Meditation scepticism but at a more restricted sceptical position. In return, it is the only reconstruction that I am aware of which does not render Kant’s argument susceptible to Stroud’s critique of anti-sceptical transcendental arguments. As will be made clearer in a moment, I take Kant’s strategy to parallel the one employed in Wittgenstein’s arguments against solipsism in the middle period, if not already at the time of the Tractatus (about which no claims will be made). Drawing this parallel will require defence since problematic idealism is an epistemological and solipsism a metaphysical doctrine, which makes it less than obvious how they could be countered along similar lines. This task will be approached later (cf. chapter 12). It is a repeated pattern in Kant’s Analytic of Principles that the proposition that is to be proven is stated in isolation from the text and the proof itself. The proposition stated in this way should evidently be

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_10



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the same as the conclusion that appears at the end of the proof. In most cases, it is straightforward how to make the identification; not so in the Refutation of Idealism. What is entitled the ‘Theorem’ (Lehrsatz) is phrased as follows: Theorem The mere, but empirically determined, consciousness of my own existence proves the existence of objects in space outside me. (B 275)

The use of the word ‘prove’ makes this formulation sound more like a gloss on the proof than like a statement of its conclusion. Evidently, a proof does not prove that something proves something else. There are several formulations in the text of the proof itself, to which the theorem might correspond. I take the relevant formulation to be that ‘the determination of my existence in time is possible only by means of the existence of actual things that I perceive outside myself ’ (B 276). One’s interpretation of Kant’s talk of ‘the mere, but empirically determined, consciousness of my own existence’ in the first part of the theorem is crucial for an interpretation of the argument. The fact of being conscious of oneself in this way is stated in the first line of the proof as: ‘I am conscious of my existence as determined in time.’ (B 275) How is this to be understood? As I argued in chapter 7, an answer to this question derives from an answer to another question, namely, what kind of subject is presupposed by the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances. The argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances is the argument for problematic idealism, the argument that defines the idealistic position. Simple and natural as these questions are, I do not think that they have received accurate answers in the literature, nor have the consequences of answering them been duly considered. In order to indicate what is at stake, I want to state the main consequences of the reading developed here more explicitly: 1. Kant’s argument turns on the concept of an empirically determined consciousness of one’s own existence in time. This is usually interpreted as a consciousness of the temporal succession of one’s own representations. As against this, it is argued here that the main point

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is that the idealist is unable to bring the subject itself, the owner of representations, into temporal relations. 2. Kant says very clearly what position he aims to refute, which he calls ‘problematic idealism’. This position, though moderately sceptical, has nothing to do with First-Meditation scepticism, which means that the premises of Kant’s argument need not be immune to sceptical doubt. 3. Kant’s argument is a successful refutation of problematic idealism, properly construed. It is a more modest argument in not being a proof of the existence of outer appearances in the face of radical scepticism. 4. A further point that is indicated by some of Kant’s remarks on the conclusion of the Refutation is that what he is really objecting to is the idealist conception of a purely inner experience. If this is correct, the reasoning not only invalidates the idealist’s argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances but also any attempt at proving the existence of outer objects on the basis of inner experience. I take the last point to be the most controversial, as it turns on the interpretation of some remarks made by Kant on which different takes are possible. It is one thing to view the Refutation not as an antisceptical argument but rather as an argument that creates a dilemma for the idealist of either accepting the reality of outer sense or embracing radical scepticism. It is quite another to interpret Kant as saying that there is no starting point for the argument of the idealist at all, as there is no such thing as purely ‘inner’ experience. This is evocative of Wittgenstein’s criticism of the ‘inner’-‘outer’ distinction.1 I shall comment on the parallel at the end of this chapter. The points listed here are at odds with much of the literature on the Refutation. One notable exception concerning the first point is Strawson’s interpretation given in The Bounds of Sense. Strawson is one of the few commentators to realize that the Refutation does not argue from the awareness of the successiveness of representations to the reality of outer objects as the condition of this awareness, but to the latter via the necessity of a temporal determination of the subject itself, which is possible only

1 See

RPP II §170, §335, §643f., LW II: 68f., 84, among many other passages.


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if it is at the same time determined spatially. This can be gleaned from a passage in which Strawson says that ‘the fundamental condition of the possibility of empirical self-consciousness is that experience should contain at least the seed of the idea of one experiential or subjective route through an objective world’ (Strawson 1966: 127f.). He adds in clarification: ‘The idea of a mere temporal succession of representations, of the form “Now A, now B, now C”, etc., does not by itself contain the seed of this idea.’ (Strawson 1966: 128) As will be seen, this parallels Kant’s rejection of successive representations in inner experience as a possible ground of determination of the subject’s existence in time. Furthermore, there is an early paper by Richard Aquila entitled ‘Personal Identity and Kant’s “Refutation of Idealism” ’, according to which Kant’s criticism of the idealist is that he fails to account for the cognition of who in particular it is that exists over time (cf. Aquila 1979: 262–266). There is both something right and something misleading about Aquila’s way of putting it, where what is right is more important. What is right is that consciousness of one’s own existence in time should be construed as empirical consciousness of oneself as a particular thing, whereas what is misleading is to say that this is a matter of being aware of who I am, which is evocative of biographical self-knowledge. More recently, Allais has emphasized the same point concerning empirical intuition in general, namely, that on any indirect or representationalist conception of perception, there is no perceptual relation to particulars; all we would ever be experiencing would be sensible qualities, to which a certain kind of object may correspond, but never a particular (cf. Allais 2015: 154). The rejection of this view is a precondition of being able to answer the objection Kant raises against himself in the Refutation passage that we may have merely ‘outer imagination’ instead of outer sense (cf. B 276f. n.). For Kant, a sensible intuition is an immediate awareness of a single object (cf. A 32/B 47). It is very common practice in the literature to identify problematic idealism with scepticism about material objects. This is often done without argument or even proposed incidentally, as if there were to be no alternative worth bothering about. Many commentators say that ‘problematic idealism’ is just what Kant calls scepticism, without ever

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wondering why Kant does not talk of ‘scepticism’ when he means scepticism. I proceed with a selection of passages from the literature: … Kant does nothing less than prepare the way for his ultimate refutation of skepticism, or as he calls it, problematic idealism. (Guyer 1987: 168) The purpose of the Refutation is to demonstrate the untenability of a kind of skepticism about the external world, which Kant calls “empirical idealism”. (Vogel 1993: 875) The following will show that “idealism” – understood as external-world scepticism – is a correct description of Descartes’ doctrine in the Meditations … (Heidemann 1998: 56f., transl. B. R.). [T]he “problematic idealism” of Descartes … is the explicit target of the Refutation. … the logic of the argument requires that the [first] premise … must correspond to a proposition that the Cartesian places beyond doubt … immune to the hyperbolic doubt emanating from the demon hypothesis and its modern variants. (Allison 2004: 287, 289, 291) … Cartesian external world scepticism (the position which Kant calls ‘problematic idealism’) … (Chignell 2011: 184) This type of idealism is based on epistemological considerations that Kant believes to be illustrated by Descartes’ methodical doubt in the Discourse on Method (cf. AA 28: 681). (Bader 2012: 53)

What goes unnoticed in the accounts of these commentators is that Kant gives a very precise explanation of what problematic idealism is (cf. chapter 7). This explanation has nothing to do with an argument from the possibility of rational doubt to the effect that we have no reasons to prefer the belief that we are now perceiving veridically, to the belief that we are hallucinating everything, for example. What defines problematic idealism is the argument that we can only rely on an inference from ideas in our minds to outer objects as their hypothetical causes. If we do not simply assume that First-Meditation scepticism must be Kant’s target in the Refutation but search the text of the Meditations for passages that state the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances, we find it, as has been noted earlier, in the Sixth Meditation (cf. chapter 8). There, Descartes is no longer working under the precept of sceptical doubt. Instead, he relies


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on the principle that whatever is perceived clearly and distinctly can be accepted as true, since otherwise God would be a deceiver. The argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances is not revoked in the Meditations but only restricted in scope to sensible qualities. Thus, if this position is the target of the Refutation, then there is no need for Kant to worry about the hypothesis of the deceiver-god, contrary to what many commentators have been led to believe. As has been argued earlier, the subject presupposed by the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearance cannot be the subject of the ‘I exist’ passage (cf. AT VII: 25), because the subject of the latter argument could still turn out to be just as much material as spiritual. This is something that a sceptic can leave in doubt but which the problematic idealist absolutely has to exclude. He cannot argue that the existence of external objects is uncertain for them being inferred from impressions in the mind, when he himself is an inferred, and thus possibly an external, object. The idealist has three possibilities for an answer to the question concerning the nature of the subject presupposed by his argument. It may be (A) a purely logical subject, modeled more or less closely on Kant’s apperceptive selfconsciousness; (B) an immaterial thinking substance; or (C) a persistent individual thing as an object of immediate empirical consciousness. A logical subject cannot do what the idealist needs to have done, since a merely intellectual representation is what requires, not what can provide, determination. Apperceptive self-consciousness is a necessary condition of the empirically determined consciousness of my existence in time but not a sufficient one. This subject is the owner of representations and must be conceptualized as a substance, that is, as something permanent in which the representations inhere, while inner experience lacks the resources for fleshing out the idea of permanence. Conception (B) is not a viable option either, which should already be clear from noting that Descartes holds that the thinking substance is not immediately perceived.2 Invoking a permanent subject without a capacity by which it could be cognised is to no avail. Kant’s strategy in the Refutation, as I 2 See

AT VII: 176, 222; the former passage is illuminatingly commented in Clemenson 2007: 35f. Contrary to what is sometimes assumed, the ‘self as a private object’ is not Cartesian (cf. Nagel 1986: 34f.).

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understand it, is to exploit the fact that the subject presupposed by the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances can only be one in the sense of (C), and that only outer sense and one’s own body can meet this requirement. Kant’s strategy to counter the ‘powerful objection’ of the idealist can be clarified with the help of a modified illustration that derives from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, showing an eye that is positioned at the edge of its visual field (cf. TLP 5.6331). In the remark preceding the one with the illustration, Wittgenstein says: Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be noted? You say that this case is altogether like that of the eye and the field of sight. But you do not see the eye. And from nothing in the field of sight can it be concluded that it is seen from an eye. (TLP 5.633)

The subject presupposed by the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances is like the metaphysical subject described in this passage. If the only immediate objects of perceptions are representations in inner experience, narrowly conceived, and everything else is uncertain, the idealist cannot say anything determinate about the subject of experience. The ‘I’ becomes a condition of experience which is not itself in experience, as the idealist conceives of it. The Refutation exposes this presupposition of the argument for idealism by raising the question of the time-determination of the subject itself. In the modified illustration, the subject is represented by an eye on the left; inner experience, as conceived by the problematic idealist, is depicted as a bubble-shaped area with more or less determined boundaries (cf. Figure 10.1). Essential to the idealist’s picture of experience is that this area should be closed upon itself, so that the owner, just as any other object represented in inner experience, cannot enter it.3 The numbered Rs designate empirical representations, meaning representations delivered by the senses. R-1, as drawn below, is a representation in inner experience 3 Like

Chon Tejedor, I do not take the point of the original Tractatus illustration to be that it is wrong to place the owner of representations inside the field of sight (cf. Tejedor 2008: 197).


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R-1 R-2 R-3

Fig. 10.1

The subject in problematic idealism

that overlaps temporally with R-2, but not with R-3, which occurs later. The owner of these representations is not part of inner experience; it is that which has inner experience. Evidently, this owner cannot be determined in time relative to these representations. Descartes conceives of the relationship between representations and their owner as one of inherence and subsistence. But, once it is accepted that an appeal to God cannot replace an application in concreto, talk of a ‘substance’ is only permissible when the subject can be determined as something permanent relative to its representations, and this is what the idealist cannot do. When it comes to text constitution, we have a little bit more information on the Refutation than is usually the case in Kant. The lengthy footnote to the B preface contains an emendation, which, Kant says, must be substituted for a sentence in the running text (cf. B xxxix). I add some inline captions as well as emphases and numbers to the original version, to indicate what the common reading ignores. Without the emendation, the beginning of the proof reads as follows: {Assumption:} I am conscious of my existence as determined in time [1]. {Expression of a law:} All time-determination presupposes something persistent in perception. {Negative premise:} This persistent thing, however, cannot be something in me [2], {Support of the negative premise:} since my own existence in time [1] can first be determined only through this persistent thing. (B 275)

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The emendation replaces the negative premise and the formulation of what Kant says in support of it but without altering the logical structure of the passage. This structure absolutely requires that (1), ‘my own existence in time’, which is to be ‘determined’, and (2), ‘something in me’, which is a candidate for such a determination, should be distinct. In contrast, most commentators take Kant to say that perception of a persistent thing is meant to be required for the ordering of one’s representations in inner experience. It is believed that the empirical consciousness of one’s own existence in time is a consciousness of the succession of representations in inner experience, which conflates (1) and (2). This reading is also unlikely to be correct, because one would have to assume that Kant narrowly scratched past a completely insufficient formulation of the proof, by not even indicating what the proof is about, as no mention is made of a change of representations in the original version. It is only in the emendation, which replaces the third sentence above, that Kant talks of the ‘change’ of representations in me. In the emended passage, the negative premise and its support are carefully rephrased and developed. I present the passage with the substitution: {Assumption:} I am conscious of my existence as determined in time. {Expression of a law:} All time-determination presupposes something persistent in perception. {Negative premise:} This persistent thing, however, cannot be an intuition in me. {Support of the negative premise:} For all grounds of determination of my existence that can be encountered in me are representations, and as such require something persistent that is distinct even from them, in relation to which their change, thus my existence in the time in which they change, can be determined. (B 275, xl.)

In the last sentence, Kant says that the representations change in the same time in which my existence must be determined. There is no indication that awareness of changing representations is all that constitutes the consciousness of my existence. The emendation is an improvement, according to Guyer, as it ‘does indeed improve upon the main Refutation and some of the first Analogy by suggesting what temporal feature of representations a permanent thing is supposed to be necessary to determine, namely, their change, or their succession one upon another’


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(Guyer 1983: 335). He thinks that this is supported by the fact that ‘at the end of the note [added to the B preface], Kant remarks that all of our representations, “not excluding that of matter” itself, are “very transitory and variable” (B xli)’ (Guyer 1983: 334). Where this proposal leads to can best be seen with the help of a reformulation by Georges Dicker: [T]he opening premise that ‘I am conscious of my existence as determined in time’ calls for some explanation. I shall take it to mean, as suggested by Kant’s own revision in the footnote just quoted (and as seems to be a common interpretation among Kant commentators), that I am aware that I have representations or experiences that occur in a specific (i.e., particular) temporal order. For these experiences are the sole “determining grounds of my existence;” it is precisely and only by being aware of them, as they succeed each other in temporal order, that I can be said to be aware of my own existence and its continuation in time. (Dicker 2008: 81)

This is indeed a common interpretation among Kant commentators, and yet it is not even unquestionable that I can be said to be aware of my existence when I am aware only of the temporal succession of my mental states. More importantly, this interpretation disregards the logical structure of the passage. The topic of the passage can be put as a question: ‘Relative to what can my existence in time – which above is indicated by ‘(1)’ and which corresponds to the assertion ‘I exist’ – be determined?’ Intuitions in me, or determining grounds in me, which is (2), are considered as possible candidates and rejected, in the original as well as the amended version. The last sentence gives the reason why they must be rejected: time-determination of my existence in time requires something persistent in perception, which intuitions in me are not. If consciousness of my existence in time were to be a consciousness of the change, or succession, of representations in me, then (2) would be the same as (1). But if (1) and (2) were to be the same, Kant would not tell us that (1) cannot be determined by reference to (2), as if that were an option. And should he find it worth stating, he would not give a reason different from the obvious one, namely, because they are the same. On the interpretation suggested here – that Kant is concerned with the temporal determination of the owner of representations – much of

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the rest falls in place. It becomes straightforward how to deal with two problems which have puzzled Guyer, to which I turn now: [The published text of the Refutation] offers no argument at all for the premise that something permanent is needed to make temporal determinations, and only a woefully schematic one for the thesis that whatever satisfies this function must be something distinct from the self and any of its own representations in whatever way is in fact intended. (Guyer 1987: 280)

The first problem can be answered in the following way. Supposing that Kant is concerned with the temporal determination of the subject itself, we have to ask what mode of existence comes into consideration for it. The answer, which is also consistent with what we find in Descartes, is: that of a substance. Now, if we are concerned with the temporal determination of the existence of a substance, it is straightforward that something permanent should be required for the task, as only something permanent can figure as a point of reference or coordinate system for the temporal determination of a permanent particular. It is true that Kant’s proposition ‘All time-determination presupposes something persistent in perception’ appears to claim something stronger than this, as it may be taken to say that no distinction as to the temporal relation of anything can be made without presupposing something persistent in intuition. But if we suppose that Kant is concerned with the temporal determination of an individual thing, there is no need for such a sweeping claim. The principle is clearly defensible if restricted to the task of determining an individual thing in time. That this is more likely to be correct can also be brought out by considering Kant’s second note on the proof, which is not very popular in Guyer’s numerous contributions on the Refutation (see also Guyer 1998). For our purposes, it will suffice to quote the last two sentences of the note: The consciousness of myself in the representation I is no intuition at all, but a merely intellectual representation of the self-activity of a thinking subject. And hence this I does not have the least predicate of intuition that, as persistent, could serve as the correlate for time-determination in inner sense, as, say, the empirical intuition of impenetrability in matter does. (B 277f.)


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Just as the application of the concept of substance to things in space is based on perceivable properties such as impenetrability, Kant says, so must its application to the subject be based on intuitions that give substance to the idea of permanence. As this note suggests, the Refutation is concerned with the temporal determination of the subject, which, as Kant implies clearly enough, is the determination of the existence of a substance. For the common interpretation, it must remain an utter mystery why Kant should add this note to the proof at all. On this interpretation, we can only complain about what a bad writer Kant is for not telling us more about the ordering of representations in inner experience, which is allegedly crucial. In fact, the note tells us what indeterminacy the section is concerned with. It is here, as in the chapter on the paralogisms in the second edition, where Kant says that the unity of consciousness ‘is only the unity of thinking, through which no object is given; and thus the category of substance, which always presupposes a given intuition, cannot be applied to it, and hence this subject cannot be cognized at all’ (B 422). If what has been said is correct, also the other problem mentioned by Guyer disappears. Guyer thinks that ‘the empirical self … is not itself available as a permanent object of perception by reference to which the temporal features of its own representational states may be made determinate’ (Guyer 1983: 335). In some places, this is also presented as an option that Kant is thought to neglect, as when Guyer writes that he ‘fails to make obvious why an enduring self would not be a sufficient condition for the empirical representation of change of subjective state’ (Guyer 1987: 284; cf. Guyer 1983: 345). To this, the answer is that Guyer has it backwards. If ‘the self ’ is that which is to be determined in time, Kant is not overlooking anything, nor need he give any argument as to why an enduring self cannot be what is needed. The strongest indication of the spuriousness of the problem about the ontological distinctness of the permanent thing from the subject is that Guyer himself only seemingly solves it. This is clear from the following passage commenting on a 1790 reflection by Kant, which is of crucial importance for Guyer:

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[T]here was no obvious reason why an enduring self contrasted to its own fleeting representations could not play the conceptual role of a substratum of time or a substance for subjective alterations. However, Kant’s present argument that the epistemological conditions for determinate judgement of even subjective sequences of representations require the correlation of the latter with successive states of enduring objects entails that those objects are objects acting on the self and must therefore be numerically distinct from it. It is precisely because enduring objects are conceived of as agents of the empirical succession of self-consciousness … that they must also be conceived of as numerically distinct from the self. (Guyer 1987: 308; cf. Ak. XVIII: 614, R 6313)

There are two points to note here. First, if the enduring objects in question are conceived as agents that act on the subject, this subject must be something that they can act upon. It is difficult to see how this is conceivable other than by supposing that the subject is a corporeal substance just as are the objects that act upon it, which makes the ‘subjective sequences of representations’ into accidents. Accordingly, the subject is only seemingly ‘not itself available’ as a permanent substance (Guyer 1983: 335) or ‘somehow excluded’ (Vogel 1993: 876). A perceivable permanent subject is required just as are other permanent objects. Second, it is equally false that only objects that are numerically distinct from the subject can act on it so as to produce ‘subjective sequences of representations’ that can be correlated with the states of these objects (cf. Warren 1998: 187–192). Movements of parts of the subject’s own body can also be correlated with such sequences of representations. If, on the other hand, ‘the self ’ is identified with apperceptive self-consciousness, then it is indeed ‘distinct’ from any object in space. But if we understand this numerically, or ontologically, we are dividing up things in the wrong way. What we should do is identify ‘the self ’ with a permanent substance and say that it cannot be the only permanent thing. Let us now proceed to the structure of the proof. The quotation below omits the support of the negative premise and a reformulation of the conclusion at the end, introduced by ‘i. e.’. I quote what I call the ‘coda’ without any subdivisions, as it does not add any further steps to the proof. I add a specification to the ‘law’ in square brackets, which I take


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to be implicit in Kant’s text, namely, the disjunction of inner and outer intuition in the consequent of the conditional. {Assumption:} I am conscious of my existence as determined in time. {Expression of a law:} All time-determination presupposes something persistent in perception [either in inner or in outer intuition]. {Negative premise:} This persistent thing, however, cannot be something in me … {Conclusion:} Thus the perception of this persistent thing is possible only through a thing outside me and not through the mere representation of a thing outside me. {Conditionalized conclusion:} Consequently, the determination of my existence in time is possible only by means of the existence of actual things that I perceive outside myself. {Coda:} Now consciousness in time is necessarily combined with the consciousness of the possibility of this time-determination: Therefore it is also necessarily combined with the existence of the things outside me, as the condition of time-determination[.] (B 275f.)

The proof begins with what seems to be an assumption, rather than a premise. This is suggested by the fact that the first sentence is repeated in what is above referred to as the ‘conditionalized conclusion’. Kant seems to adopt the following schema (without modality): if P, then Q or S; assume that P; thus, Q or S. But S is false, thus Q, which means that on the assumption P, it is true that Q. As can be seen here, Kant is interested in the connection of time-determination and objects in outer intuition, not in the proof of a categorical conclusion. The proof does not end with the simple proposition ‘Things outside me exist’. The interpretation of the first sentence as an assumption is able to account for why the proof does not end with a categorical proposition, although it begins with one. It should also be noted that a categorical conclusion is not needed for refuting the position of problematic idealism. The proof shows that it cannot both be true that (I1 ) ‘I am conscious of my existence in time as a thinking being’ and that (I3 ) ‘the existence of all objects in outer intuition can be inferred only as causes of given effects’. Nor can the first proposition and the proposition that ‘the only objects which I immediately cognise are representations in me’ be true. The argument,

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thus understood, indeed refutes the position of problematic idealism (cf. chapter 7).4 Turning to the coda, I suggest taking ‘the possibility of timedetermination’ to mean the same as ‘the condition of time-determination’. If this is correct, the coda is neither a modus ponens nor a hypothetical syllogism but rather something along the lines of: necessarily, A only if B, B is the same as C; thus, necessarily, A only if C. The coda is not meant to add an argumentative step; it elaborates on the connection between time-determination and the immediate consciousness of things in space. In order to determine myself as an individual thing in time, I must relate myself to things that exist as material correlates of time in the same way that I do. These other things are not objects that I have to think or imagine, but objects that I have to perceive. This is what Kant emphasizes in the first ‘conclusion’ of the proof, that ‘the perception of this persistent thing is possible only through a thing outside me and not through the mere representation of a thing outside me’ (B 275). It is now possible to appreciate why it was important to distinguish idealism as defined through the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances from scepticism modeled on Descartes’ First Meditation. If the Refutation is supposed to answer radical scepticism, as the common reading has it, it is hardly possible to avoid Luigi Caranti’s verdict on the Refutation: Even if we accept the transcendental apparatus on which the Refutation turns, all we can assume without begging the question is that the subject ‘take’ this permanent as a real object – namely, as something that endures while the succession of his inner states flows. But this task can be accomplished by mere illusion. (Caranti 2007: 149)

This is a way of making Stroud’s familiar point against anti-sceptical transcendental arguments (cf. chapter 9). The sceptic could always plausibly insist that one cannot establish that only the actual existence of objects in space can make inner experience possible, while even the 4 The reasoning is similar to what in his logic lectures Kant calls a ‘dilemma’, except for the omission

of a second negative premise (cf. JL: 130, HL: 107–109).


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most perfect appearance of them cannot (cf. Stroud 1968: 255 = 24). On the interpretation developed here, Stroud’s objection does not affect the Refutation argument, because all sceptical scenarios that are standardly invoked to spell out the possibility of massive error are scenarios in which not only our intuition of outer objects, but also the empirical consciousness of ourselves as temporally determined individuals, is illusory. The conclusion of the Refutation is a conditional, and the empirically determined consciousness of my own existence is the empirically determined consciousness of my own existence as an individual thing in time. If the consequent is false, as is the case when I am deceived into believing that I have genuine outer experience, so is the antecedent. That is, if the sceptical scenario is actual, I have not only false beliefs about the objects around me; it is also false that I am conscious of my own existence in time. One might be doubtful of this, however. In a body-in-a-vat scenario, I am sensibly aware of illusory outer things, with regard to which I determine myself in time.5 My beliefs about my determination in time are false in virtually every respect. But does that mean that I have no empirically determined consciousness of my own existence as an individual thing in time, rather than no correct one? I take Kant’s answer – and also the right one – to be: yes. The empirically determined consciousness of one’s own existence in time is an immediate consciousness of oneself as an individual thing. As such, it must involve intuition, since no other type of representation is of particulars. A conceptual representation, on the other hand, is ‘related to the object … by means of a mark, which can be common to several things’ (A 320/B 376f.). An illusory consciousness of one’s own existence in time is like a conceptual representation in this respect. It is a consciousness of a certain general deceptive kind, which different individuals may have at different times. In the body-in-a-vat scenario, the matter of experience is not provided by a direct perceptual contact with spatial objects. I do not have an empirically determined

5 I refer to a ‘body-in-a-vat’, rather than ‘brain-in-a-vat’, scenario, to avoid qualms about referring to

brains as persons (cf. Hacker 2007: 306–310). Hilary Putnam introduced the thought-experiment of brains in a vat in Reason, Truth and History (cf. Putnam 1981: 5f.).

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consciousness of my existence as an individual thing in time. This is only how things seem to be. Let us suppose for a moment that it could be argued convincingly that by ‘the mere, but empirically determined, consciousness of my own existence’ Kant really means an awareness of the succession of representations in inner experience. If this is how one interprets the Refutation, one has to introduce a distinction between the empirical consciousness of the subject in inner experience as opposed to, say, the cognition of our own existence as a living body in the world. The task such a distinction carries with it is to articulate an understanding of ‘inner experience’ by which it does not become severed from the cognition of one’s own existence as a living body in the world (cf. Ak. XVIII: 615, R 6313, 1790). This is what happens if ‘inner’ and ‘outer experience’ are merged with a distinction between psychologically ‘inner’ things as opposed to extramental existences. Inner and outer sense are then understood as presiding over two secluded realms. On this model, it becomes inexplicable how inner and outer sense could determine each other, as Kant suggests in two reflections that unfortunately cannot be usefully dated: ‘The conditions of outer and inner intuition determine each other reciprocally (commercium of soul and body).’ (Ak. XVIII: 189, R 5461, 1776 or later) Another expression Kant uses is that they ‘interpenetrate one another’ (sie durchdringen [sich] wechselseitig) (Ak. XVIII: 8, R 4850, 1776 or later). Nor does the picture of inner experience as an inner realm of successive representations sit well with the idea of an ‘immediate consciousness’ of objects in space, which is crucial for Kant’s argument (B 276). The concept of ‘inner sense’ must be given more complexity. This is precisely what happens in a passage that I have already quoted: [T]he existence of [a thing distinct from all my representations and external] is necessarily included in the determination of my own existence, which with it constitutes only a single experience, which could not take place even as inner if it were not simultaneously (in part) outer. (B xli n.)

Kant is usually taken to maintain that outer experience is a precondition of inner experience, but there are formulations that go beyond that, as does this one here. If inner experience is ‘in part outer’, this can only mean


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that it is not purely inner. What Kant means by ‘in part outer’ may be unpacked by saying that experience, even as ‘inner’, requires something that is not ‘inner’, without which it would not even be someone’s experience. Another formulation Kant uses is that the ‘consciousness of my existence in time is … bound up identically [identisch verbunden] with the consciousness of a relation to something outside me’ (B xl). I am not aware of another passage where he uses this expression; it is, however, evocative of Kant’s talk of analyticity, and thus suggests a conceptual connection between ‘inner’ and ‘outer experience’ (cf. A 7/B 11; cf. A 594/B 622). The apparently awkward formulation of the theorem, viz. that the ‘mere, but empirically determined, consciousness of my own existence proves the existence of objects in space outside me’, also belongs here (B 275). This may now be taken to say that as soon as the empirically determined consciousness of my own existence is posited, there is an immediate implication, without any further premise, of objects in outer intuition. What Kant says in these passages suggests yet another interpretation of the argument from the one given: it may not so much create a dilemma for the idealist between radical scepticism and empirical realism, as this was explained earlier, but rather consist in picking apart the idealist’s picture of inner and outer sense. If inner experience cannot be extricated from outer experience, then we cannot proceed by improving on the picture given above of the eye and the bubble to arrive at the good view. Only on a wrong picture of their relation can it seem that by positing inner sense we have not at the same time posited outer sense, and so could prove the reality of the latter from the former with the help of some other premise. Operating with a better picture, we are still able to point out absurdities in the position of the idealist, but what we do will no longer amount to anything like ‘[a proof of ] the existence of things outside us’ (B xxxix). We can bring this out by comparing Kant’s criticism not to Wittgenstein’s private language argument, as such is often suggested in the literature (cf. chapter 19), but to his treatment of idealism or solipsism in the 1930s. I take Wittgenstein to say something along the following lines in those texts, to be elaborated in later chapters (cf. chapters 12, 14). Idealism is a doctrine that begins with a distinction of ‘sense-data’ in contrast with ‘the world itself ’, which latter it tends to cancel out in

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favour of the first, then transforming into solipsism, only to cancel out the subject as well. That is, ‘the subject’ dissolves into formal traits of the world conceived as idea, which is the world described in terms of sensedata. I see a similar dialectic at work in Kant’s Refutation, which poses the problem of the subject in idealism as one concerning its determination in time, by which indeed the ‘powerful objection’ of the idealist becomes undone (B 274). If experience were to be purely inner, as the problematic idealist imagines, the subject of experience becomes indeterminable. But, as Kant himself seems to have been unwilling to accept, if the existence of objects cannot be viewed as a separate condition of empirical selfconsciousness, but is identically bound up with it, the argument against idealism leaves no basis from which to prove the existence of things outside us either. We can refute the idealist, but we cannot prove that realism about material objects is correct.

11 Transcendental Realism and the Fourth A-Paralogism

This last chapter of Part II is set to examine the more distant, or deeper, sources of problematic idealism and the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances. It will be remembered that this argument is that of the fourth paralogism in the first edition of the Critique. ‘A logical paralogism’, Kant says, ‘consists in the falsity of a syllogism due to its form’. The fourth A-paralogism apparently rests on an equivocation of terms. ‘A transcendental paralogism’, he continues, ‘has a transcendental ground for inferring falsely due to its form’ (A 341/B 399). Much of what Kant says suggests that this ‘ground’ is what he has introduced as transcendental illusion. At the same time, it is hard to make out how exactly the illusion should be involved in the argument. This is the first problem to be addressed in what follows. Light may also be shed from another direction. Kant says that ‘as far as I know all those psychologists who cling to empirical idealism are transcendental realists’ (A 372). The addition of ‘as far as I know’ suggests that the relation is, in any case, not one of logical entailment, and there is no textual evidence to the contrary. ‘Empirical idealism’ is the generic term for problematic and dogmatic idealism. Since the passage on the fourth A-paralogism, from which the quotation is taken, is concerned with the former, it is problematic idealism

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_11



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that Kant must have had in mind. This prompts a second question, to be pursued here: What is the relation between problematic idealism and transcendental realism? Not much has been said in explanation of transcendental realism, so far. It has been suggested, rather implicitly, that transcendental realism takes certain predicates to be applicable irrespective of whether any predicates with a relation to sensibility are co-applicable to the subject (cf. chapter 6). Reference was made to an explanation by Michael Wolff (cf. Wolff 1981: 52), which can be compared to the following one, given by Allison: [T]ranscendental realism should be understood as the view that spatiotemporal predicates are applicable to things in general [i.e., appearances and things in themselves]. Since this view is shared by all ontologies (at least all those with which Kant was concerned), transcendental realism is not committed to a particular ontology; but, since it is contrasted with an empirical realism, which limits the scope of these predicates to objects of possible experience, it is also not a vacuous label. And from this I conclude that transcendental idealism likewise does not constitute a distinct ontological position, but instead provides a radical alternative to ontology. (Allison 2006: 2)

In his explanation, Allison adds the qualification ‘spatiotemporal’ to the word ‘predicates’. This suggests that the distinction between transcendental idealism and transcendental realism refers exclusively to the question of the reality of space and time. This is a possible interpretation (though, as will be seen, it is not Allison’s); it even has the greater number of passages on its side. Talk of a ‘transcendental’, or ‘absolute’, ‘reality’ first occurs in connection with space and time (cf. A 36/B 53, A 39/B 56). The locus classicus on transcendental realism describes it as a view about space and time and spatiotemporal things, and a later passage does the same (cf. A 369, A 490f./B 518f.). This is consistent with viewing the first two antinomies as an indirect proof of transcendental idealism, as Grier does (cf. Grier 2001: 181 and A 506f./B 534f.). Allison opts for a broader conception of ‘transcendental realism’ (cf. Allison 2004: 23, 27– 29, 35). He maintains that ‘the realism to which [transcendental idealism]


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is opposed … is operative in the Paralogisms and the Ideal [of Pure Reason] as well’, which are not concerned with spatiotemporal notions (Allison 2004: 332). What can be said in favour of this interpretation is that Kant opposes himself to a view in the chapter on the paralogisms that is a natural extension of transcendental realism as a doctrine concerning space and time. The predicates of substantiality, simplicity, and personality employed in the first three paralogisms are not spatiotemporal notions, and yet Kant invokes a key distinction of transcendental idealism in his criticism of the paralogisms, which is that between empirical and transcendental uses of concepts (cf. A 246/B 303). The place where Kant comes closest to articulating a wider conception of ‘transcendental realism’ is in a handwritten reflection that predates the first edition of the Critique by three to five years: The doctrine [Lehrbegriff ] is either the realism or the formalism of pure reason. The latter permits only principles [Grundsätze] of the form of the use of our reason a priori with regard to experiences. Hence it1 permits neither dogmatic affirmation nor dogmatic denial about what is beyond the boundaries of experience. (Ak. XVIII: 40, R 4953, 1776–78; cf. Entd.: 210– 212)

The realism that emerges, negatively, from this definition of the ‘formalism of pure reason’ is dogmatic in that it makes positive or negative claims that go beyond the boundaries of experience. Accordingly, if the ‘realism’ to which it is opposed has the same generality, as seems reasonable, then it is not a doctrine that is solely concerned with spatio-temporal concepts, which corresponds to the wider conception. There are more appealing things to do, at this point, than to pick an exegetical quarrel. Accordingly, I won’t try to decide the question whether or not the contrast between idealism and realism, transcendentally understood, is concerned only with the question of the reality of space and time. Instead, I shall speak of a narrow sense in which it is, and of a broad sense

1 In

German, sie = reason, instead of er = formalism, which, however, does not crucially alter the sense of the passage. It may be a slip, or Kant may have wanted to say that according to formalism, reason does not permit this.


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in which it is not. The interest of having a broad sense of ‘transcendental realism’ available is that it can be connected to newer formulations of metaphysical realism and newer problems discussed in relation to it. An example is the realism that Hilary Putnam associates with what he calls the ‘God’s eye point of view’ (cf. Putnam 1981: 49f.). Similar imagery is found in Wittgenstein: “In the infinite expansion of π either the group ‘7777’ occurs, or it does not – there is no third possibility.” That is to say: God sees – but we don’t know. (PI §352a) “While we can never know what the result of a calculation is, for all that, it always has a quite definite result. (God knows it.) Mathematics is indeed of the highest certainty – though we possess only a crude likeness of it.” (PPF §342)

The quotation marks, which also appear in the original, indicate that these are statements to be examined, rather than affirmed. Reference to God is not necessary but just a vivid way of expressing the idea of something’s being as it is, independently of whether it is possible for human beings to gain insight into its nature. A superlative conception of knowledge is implied here, one that is to match a reality that may be what it is absolutely independently of how we conceive and experience things to be. This is transcendental realism in the broad sense, as found, for example, in Thomas Nagel (cf. Nagel 1986: 85, 90–92). Transcendental realism thus broadly conceived may be defined by two claims about a given cognitive capacity and the objects to be known. By adding a third claim about space and time, we get transcendental realism in the narrow sense: (R1 ) The most notable objects to be known are things in themselves; (R2 ) knowledge of things in themselves requires a cognitive capacity by which they can be grasped in the way they are in themselves; (R3 ) a most notable kind of objects to be known are objects in space and time.


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Following Allison, this can be viewed as an epistemological ideal (cf. Allison 2004: 28). Since what things are in themselves is given independently of any conditions of human sensibility, full cognition consists in simply taking in what they are in themselves. As a consequence, things whose esse est percipi will be perceived in this way. If ideas ‘in me’ are such things, they will be things that are cognised as they are in themselves. Unfortunately, they are not among the most notable objects to be known. Human knowledge aims at things that lie beyond the undergoings of the human mind itself. As for objects in space, there is no human cognitive capacity that parallels the immediacy with which I seem to recognize my own mental and sensible undergoings. Problematic idealism emerges from this as a way of spelling out our imperfect cognition of things in space and time, as a manner of cognition that does not live up to the epistemological ideal. One only needs to add the principle that inferences from given effects to determined causes are always uncertain, to get the position of problematic idealism (cf. B 276, A 368). This reconstruction is consistent with Kant’s text; problematic idealism does not follow directly from transcendental realism. One might say that problematic idealism is the result of modeling human knowledge after the epistemological ideal of transcendental realism. The first four lines in the table below list objects of possible knowledge in the middle column and cognitive capacities in the column on the right (cf. Table 11.1). The bottom line gives the predicates employed in (R1 ) and (R2 ), respectively. ‘Objects to be known’ are objects the knowledge of which is aimed at. The expression is not intended to imply that knowledge of them is actually possible. On a view such as Descartes’, the self can be known by the intellect as it is in itself after the existence of a benevolent God has been proved (cf. chapter 8). A similar rationalist position might hold, instead, that the thinking substance is an immediate object of inner sense (cf. Dyck 2014: 54–56, 195–198). Hence the ‘or’ in the second line in the right column. The dashes below indicate that there is no human cognitive capacity that represents outer objects and determined causes of given perceptions as they are in themselves. The candidates are outer sense, on the one hand, and inferential cognition, on the other. This lack is what makes room for the argument of the uncertainty of outer appearances, and thus for problematic idealism.


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Table 11.1 Transcendental realism and problematic idealism Empirical subject-term

• Ideas in the mind • Psychological self • Outer objects • Causes of given perceptions

Transcendental predicate

are things in themselves.

• Inner sense (with respect to ideas in the mind) • Intellect or inner sense (with respect to the self) – –

are manners of per se cognition

Allison interprets transcendental realism in terms of ‘a “standpoint” or normative model with reference to which human cognition is analyzed and evaluated’ (Allison 2004: 35). Understood in this way, it is indeed capable of shedding light on the underlying motivations of problematic idealism. Human reason, he proposes, has a tendency of being lured into the transcendent by transcendental illusion, which transcendental idealism aims to forestall (cf. Allison 2004: xvii). He concludes: ‘This gives to transcendental idealism an essential therapeutic function of which I had not initially been fully aware’ (Allison 2004: xviii, cf. Allison 2006: 16– 18). For Allison, the upshot of the doctrine is not humility, not a matter of having to content oneself with something less than the thing in itself; it consists in the realization that the very idea of a real and absolutely inner nature of things should be put behind us. This is the deflationary and therapeutic element in the methodological ‘two aspects’ interpretation. The contrast with Strawson’s understanding could hardly be greater, as the idea of a therapeutic function of philosophy is associated with a very different way of philosophizing, such as is found in Wittgenstein.2 For Strawson, transcendental idealism is an indefensible metaphysical doctrine, and not a particularly momentous one for Kant’s philosophy, as it can be separated by a ‘disentangling operation’ from the analytical 2 Cf.,

e.g. BB: 143, PI §133 n., §255, §593, RFM: 132, 302, 333, and chapter 3.


Transcendental Realism and the Fourth A-Paralogism


argument of the Critique (cf. Strawson 1966: 42). Strawson also considers what he calls ‘the weakest possible interpretation of transcendental idealism’, which he formulates in terms that are evocative of the later interpretations of Prauss and Allison, but rejects it as impossible to align with the relevant texts (cf. Strawson 1966: 171). But how is transcendental illusion supposed to be operative in the fourth A-paralogism? It will be remembered that the illusion has been introduced by means of P1 and P2 (cf. chapter 5) The obvious difficulty for deriving any elucidation from the earlier explanation is that the paralogisms do not at all involve the idea of a series of conditions. The paralogisms are categorical, not hypothetical, syllogisms (cf. A 335/B 392). The transcendental predicates on which the first three paralogisms are centred – unity, substantiality, and simplicity – are attributes of the subject, or rather modes of the existence of the subject. As such, they are coordinated to one another and do not form a series (cf. A 413f./B 441). Only a more general characterization of transcendental illusion can be said to fit the paralogisms, rather than anything like P1 and P2 , namely: ‘One can place all illusion in the taking of a subjective condition of thinking for the cognition of an object.’ (A 396) I proceed with Kant’s presentation of the fourth A-paralogism to see what this might suggest about the role of transcendental illusion. Added in square brackets are direct quotations from several glosses given in the paragraph following his statement of the syllogism: That whose existence can be inferred only as a cause of [immediately] given perceptions has only a doubtful existence: Now all outer appearances [i.e. real objects outside me (if this last word is taken in an intellectual signification)] are of this kind: their existence cannot be immediately perceived [i.e. I cannot encounter it in my apperception], but can be inferred only [i.e. added in thought] as the cause of given perceptions: Thus the existence of all objects of outer sense is doubtful. (A 366f., my italics)

As Thomas Powell notes, the middle term of the syllogism is not ‘outer appearances’, as one would expect, but ‘that whose existence can be


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inferred only as a cause of given perceptions’ (cf. Powell 1988: 397). Powell suggests that the sense of ‘inferred’ changes with the sense of ‘outer object’, so that an ambiguity attaching to the latter produces an ambiguity in the former (cf. Powell 1988: 397f.). But if this were to be the case, then the word ‘hypothesis’ in Kant’s talk of ‘transcendental hypotheses’ would also have a different sense from the usual one (cf. A 772/B 800). It is difficult to see what sense that might be. Powell does not focus on transcendental illusion but conceives of the inference from something ‘inner’ to all that is ‘outer’ as an inference to material objects viewed as things in themselves. Indeed, it is not clear why the confusion of the two senses of ‘outer object’ should be an error from transcendental illusion rather than a transcendental misuse of a concept, or a ‘judgemental error’, as Grier calls it (Grier 2001: 95). A transcendental misuse may consist either in the extension of either sensible conditions or the pure concepts and principles of the understanding to things in general,3 or in the false identification of objects standing under sensible and intellectual conditions with things in themselves.4 The question asked at the outset of this chapter was in what way transcendental illusion may contribute to the metaphysical error of the paralogism, while what we have been led to is again an account that makes essential reference to transcendental realism. There is no need to add an explanation in terms of mistaking a subjective condition of thinking for the cognition of an object (cf. A 396). Instead of renewing the attempt, which does not seem very promising, let us turn to a passage on the illusion near the end of the paralogism chapter. The following lines are from the ‘general exposition’ of the transcendental illusion in the paralogisms: [O]f the thinking I (the soul), which thinks itself as substance, simple, numerically identical in all time, and the correlate of all existence from which all other existence must be inferred, one can say not so much [nicht sowohl] that it cognizes itself through the categories but [sondern] that it cognizes the categories, and through them all objects, in the absolute unity of apperception, and hence cognizes them through itself. Now it is indeed 3 See 4 See

B 70n., A 88/B 120f. for the former, and B 148, B 307f., A 296/B 352 for the latter. A 190/B 235, A 369, A 378.


Transcendental Realism and the Fourth A-Paralogism


very evident that I cannot cognize as an object itself that which I must presuppose in order to cognize an object at all; and that the determining Self (the thinking) is different from the determinable Self (the thinking subject) as cognition is different from its object. Nevertheless, nothing is more natural and seductive than the illusion of taking the unity in the synthesis of thoughts for a perceived unity in the subject of these thoughts. (A 401f., transl. alt.)

The German construction nicht sowohl …, sondern … expresses a gradual, not an absolute, contrast (cf. Hinske 1970: 28f.). Kant does not mean to deny that the subject cognises itself with the help of the categories; he emphasizes that through them it cognises not only itself but all objects of which it also has intuition. The thinking subject as a determinable self is on a par with other objects of possible knowledge. As such, it is not unconditioned. What is unconditioned is apperceptive selfconsciousness, ‘the thinking’, which is not an object. It is unconditioned, because it is itself the most fundamental condition of the cognition of objects. The hypostatization Kant is talking of in this passage consists in mistaking the thought of myself ‘as substance, simple, numerically identical in all time, and the correlate of all existence from which all other existence must be inferred’ for a perception of myself. What is a way of representing oneself intellectually gets confused with a peculiar kind of self-cognition. It is, however, not very clear why we should inevitably represent ourselves in thought as ‘the correlate of all existence’, which is supposedly the source of the fourth A-paralogism. Corey Dyck has suggested that the illusion at the root of this paralogism has to do with the subject in a specific way. It is the appearance of the ‘I’ in the intellectual representation ‘I think’ to be present as an object of inner sense (!) and thus as actually existing in time (cf. Dyck 2014: 174). This illusion, he argues, is what prompts the idealist’s conflation of the existence of the subject considered as an appearance in time with the subject considered in itself (cf. Dyck 2014: 192). It is under the impression of this conflation that the problem arises of whether, as Kant says elsewhere, ‘the objects of the outer senses are actually to be found in the space in which we put them while awake, in the way that the object of inner sense, the soul, actually is in time’ (Prol.: 337). Dyck


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concludes: ‘Ultimately, then, the psychological ground of this misguided idealism is the illusory appearance of the soul which has the effect of tempting the metaphysician to overlook the transcendental distinction [between appearance and thing in itself ] precisely where it might be recognized most readily [i.e. regarding outer objects].’ (Dyck 2014: 195) This reconstruction makes Kant’s criticism inapplicable to Descartes, who denies that the thinking substance is immediately perceived (cf. chapter 8). But it has much on its side when placed within the context of the eighteenth-century German tradition of rational psychology, as Dyck proposes. In the German tradition, rational psychology is conceived as a ‘mixed’ or ‘hybrid’ discipline, with empirical psychology forming an integral part, and the view that the thinking subject is immediately perceived is widely held (cf. Dyck 2014: chs. 1 and 2). Without wishing to question the accuracy of this account, I think it is unsatisfactory for its lack of generality. If we are able to explain the illusion only on presupposing a very peculiar set of tenets, it won’t possess the naturalness Kant claims for it. If we have to search for a way in which we might be misled, hardly anyone will actually be misled. The most robust explanation of the role of transcendental illusion in the fourth Aparalogism I can think of is to say that if the subject of apperception is already taken for a simple and permanent substance whose nature excludes everything relational, according to the first three paralogisms, then any representation of things in space can only be an accidental affection of that subject by something ‘outer’, something essentially external to it; as a result, a representation of things in space can only be indirect. According to this suggestion, problematic idealism is not an immediate consequence of ‘[mis]taking the unity in the synthesis of thoughts for a perceived unity in the subject of these thoughts’ (A 402). The fourth paralogism is a natural consequence of the other three, but it has no ‘transcendental ground’ on its own for inferring falsely (A 341/B 399). Accordingly, to the extent to which Kant’s account of the illusion in the first three paralogisms – which won’t be examined here – is convincing, it will eo ipso yield an explanation of why the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearance should seem inevitable. Kant’s ‘general exposition’ does not assume prior acceptance of transcendental realism on the part of the problematic idealist but identifies transcendental illusion as a source


Transcendental Realism and the Fourth A-Paralogism


of this view, which is independent of transcendental realism (cf. A 396). This is not contradicted by my suggestion to play down the idea that the fourth paralogism has a transcendental ground on its own. Moreover, the proposition that the paralogism of substantiality (of the self ) is in the background of problematic idealism is consistent with the contention that the Refutation is attacking the self presupposed by the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances.

Part III Wittgenstein: Idealism, Solipsism, and Scepticism

Introduction Part III is devoted to three ‘isms’ in post-Tractarian Wittgenstein: idealism, solipsism, and scepticism. Explaining how these notions are used by Wittgenstein goes some way towards explaining what it is about. This is what I shall do, before giving an outline of this part’s chapters. ‘Idealism’, in Wittgenstein, is centrally associated with two questions. One is the metaphysical question of what is ultimately real and the other the logical question of what primarily it makes sense to say (in factstating language). Wittgenstein’s idealist gives interconnected answers to these questions. He says that what it primarily makes sense to say concerns what is primarily real, and what is primarily real are sensedata. According to this view, the relation between sense-data and physical objects is not one of causation. ‘Idealism’ in Wittgenstein is not like problematic idealism in Kant. Instead, the idea that sense-data are caused by physical objects is associated with realism: ‘Realists were right in protesting [against the idealists] that chairs do exist. They get into trouble because they think that sense-data and physical objects are causally related.’ (LWL: 80, 1931–32) The most likely reason for the difference in the attribution of this argument is that the position Wittgenstein has in mind assumes the existence of a corporeal person. The quotation is not much of a definition of ‘realism’, and it should also be noted that


III Wittgenstein: Idealism, Solipsism, and Scepticism

the notion occurs in connection with other minds scepticism, which is a relatively new concern in philosophy. Another notion that is closely related to, if not synonymous with, that of a ‘realist’ is ‘common-sense philosopher’. In a passage about other minds scepticism, Wittgenstein associates the common-sense philosopher – who is not the commonsense man – with realism (cf. BB: 48). He also describes the realist about material objects as someone who thinks he can refute idealism by kicking a stone (cf. AWL: 23, ML: 103). This attitude is not unlike that of G. E. Moore, whom Wittgenstein most likely thought of as a common-sense philosopher (cf. chapter 15). Wittgenstein’s descriptions of the idealist and the solipsist are often more sympathetic than those of the realist. As envisaged by Wittgenstein, the solipsist and the idealist are sensitive to the grammatical distinctions and problems which the realist overlooks (cf. BB: 48f., 58, AWL: 108f.). Wittgenstein also admits that he had himself often tended towards solipsistic ideas (cf. WCL: 250, Easter Term 1940). This ‘sympathetic’ attitude towards idealism should not be confused with its endorsement. Several manuscript passages from the first half of the 1930s prove the opposite. In the following remark, he puts it most bluntly: ‘The realist is always right in what he says, but the idealist sees the problems that are there and which the realist does not see.’ (vW 156b: 22v, transl. B. R.)1 Wittgenstein’s best-known remark about realism dates from about ten years later: ‘Not empiricism [Empirie] and yet realism in philosophy, that is the hardest thing. (Against Ramsey.)’ (RFM: 325; cf. vW 164: 67, vW 128: 127) As Schulte has noted, the translation of ‘Empirie’ as ‘empiricism’ is unfortunate. The German word ‘Empirie’ refers to the use of empirical methods, not to the philosophical tradition of empiricism (cf. Schulte 2010: 140, n. 1). What seems clear is that Wittgenstein commends a realism that does not transpose empirical, or scientific, ways of thinking to philosophy. The passage from the 1931–32 lectures, quoted above, already describes an empiricist variant of realism – to the extent to which 1 For those familiar with Strawson’s classical essay ‘Freedom and Resentment’, the central idea can be communicated as follows: in Wittgenstein, the idealist stands to the realist exactly like the figure of the ‘pessimist’ to that of the ‘optimist’ concerning the question of whether our moral practice has an adequate basis (cf. Strawson 1962: sects. 1, 2, and 6).

III Wittgenstein: Idealism, Solipsism, and Scepticism


the view that sense-data are caused by physical objects is empiricist.2 This type of analysis is rejected by Wittgenstein: ‘We wish to avoid any form of expression which would seem to refer to an effect produced by an object on a subject. (Here we are bordering on the problem of idealism and realism …).’ (BB: 178) In Wittgenstein, ‘idealism’ and ‘solipsism’, but not ‘scepticism’, are related notions. A thematic division can already be discerned in the Tractatus, where solipsism and scepticism are treated in separate sections (cf. TLP 5.62–641 and 6.51). Tractarian solipsism has nothing to do with a subject who is suspicious about whether things really are as they seem to be; it is not a problem about a mind-to-world fit at all. The problem is rather to what extent it is a truth that the world is my idea, or to what extent my thinking determines what there is to fit in the first place (cf. McGuinness 2002). According to Wittgenstein, a correctly understood sense-data theory of material objects does not lead to scepticism. ‘Scepticism’ is not explained in the Tractatus, but Wittgenstein’s understanding of this notion is likely to derive from the familiar Cartesian conception. In writings from the 1930s, he associates ‘scepticism’ with sceptical scenarios. In connection with scepticism, he says in his 1931–32 lectures: ‘If someone argues that you only came into existence ten minutes ago, as Russell suggested, he is using words in a new sense. Yet he [thinks he means] exactly what we mean; cf Descartes’ malicious demon.’ (LWL: 80; cf. ML: 111, AWL: 25–27) In contrast to the realist, the idealist views the relation between sense-data and physical objects as logical, as drawn in language, which is the only way it can be conceived, according to Wittgenstein (cf. LWL: 69f., 80f., 115). This is not in line with an interpretation that takes him to argue the that idea of private sense-data underlies not only other minds scepticism but also scepticism about things in space (cf. Pears 1988: 293). I have not been able to detect any such connection in Wittgenstein. Two qualifications have to be made, however. The first is that the distinction between idealism and scepticism in Wittgenstein’s treatment of the problem of other minds is not sharp. Although he always talks about 2 Berkeley

clearly rejected this view (cf. PHK: 64f., §56).


III Wittgenstein: Idealism, Solipsism, and Scepticism

‘idealism’ and ‘solipsism’, or ‘semi-solipsism’ (cf. vW 124: 283, 1941–44), in connection with the problem of other minds, we often see him stating it as a problem about knowing other minds. This then becomes superseded by the questions of what is ultimately real and what it primarily makes sense to say. The second qualification is prompted by On Certainty. Contrary to Wittgenstein’s usual terminology, he there begins to talk of ‘the scepticism of the idealist’ (OC §37). The idealist in On Certainty is not the idealist we know from earlier texts, such as the second part of The Blue Book or the ‘visual room’ passage of the Investigations (cf. PI §398– 402). Nothing has so far been said about the contrast between idealism and solipsism in Wittgenstein. The reason is that there might be no principled contrast at all. A slogan like ‘Idealism … is just a half-hearted form of solipsism’ says just that (Williams 1981: 150). As Schulte has noted, Wittgenstein exhibits an attitude of relative indifference about which term to use. In the not so many occurrences of ‘idealism’ and its derivatives, they are often accompanied by ‘and solipsism’, ‘or a solipsist’, or substituted by these notions in the process of writing (cf. Schulte 2006: 203–206, 218). There is, however, another explanation for this lack of determinacy. For Wittgenstein, ‘idealism’ and ‘solipsism’ do not stand for determinate philosophical positions or theories but for whole trains of thought with different stages. There is not one fixed picture of solipsism but a changing, developing picture (cf. chapter 12). I proceed with an outline of Part III. Chapter 12 deals with the argument against solipsism in The Blue Book and in other texts from the 1930s. It will transpire that to view Wittgenstein’s discussion as merely conceptual, or purely linguistic, is not the best way of accounting for what happens in the second half of The Blue Book. It is true that Wittgenstein insists on the condition that the solipsist should be able to state his view and the unique position that he gives himself in an intelligible way, and that Wittgenstein rejects the corresponding statements as either incoherent or as falling short of saying what they are supposed to say. In so doing, however, he is also concerned with questions of knowledge, with how we relate to our own mind and the minds of others. Although at first blush this approach bears little similarity with Kant’s, the problem

III Wittgenstein: Idealism, Solipsism, and Scepticism


Wittgenstein raises for solipsism is instructively compared to Kant’s argument against problematic idealism. Chapter 13 is largely self-contained in that it consists in a contribution to what was originally prompted by a passage in The Blue Book but has since got a philosophical life on its own, namely, the topic of ‘immunity to error through misidentification’. I revisit Wittgenstein’s distinction of the use as subject and the use as object of ‘I’ in the light of a manuscript source that has strangely been neglected. This source is a notebook from Wittgenstein’s Nachlass that contains a draft version in German of the Blue Book passage where the distinction is introduced. It provides a good basis for meeting various challenges made by Gareth Evans and Peter Hacker against Wittgenstein. I shall defend a conception of the distinction that has nothing to do with a contrast between the way in which ‘I’ supposedly refers in the two uses. I conclude with a discussion of the relationship to Kant’s similar-sounding distinction of the self as subject and the self as object (Ich als Subject, Ich als Object). In chapter 14, I turn to what, chronologically, is the next stage of Wittgenstein’s engagement with idealism. It finds expression in a passage that I have already referred to as the ‘visual room’ passage. It has not been stated very clearly in the literature that this is not a version of Wittgenstein’s Blue Book argument against solipsism. I then proceed to examine a claim that has recently been made by Hacker. Hacker argues that the passage contains material for a fundamental criticism of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction. This criticism turns on particular interpretations of the notions of ‘perception’ and ‘transcendental apperception’ in Kant. As will be seen, these interpretations are not very well supported by the relevant texts. Nevertheless, Hacker’s criticism shows something important; it shows what the difficulties would be, if perceptions were to be ‘seemings’ and if apperceptive self-consciousness were to be construed as ‘indubitable’. I do think that the role of perceptions in the first Critique is deeply problematic, though not in the way Hacker suggests. The problem of perception in Kant will be approached in chapters 16 and 17. The last chapter of Part III is entitled ‘On Certainty and Sceptical Doubt’. For once, I avoid a formulation with ‘in’ – as in ‘Solipsism in


III Wittgenstein: Idealism, Solipsism, and Scepticism

the Blue Book’ – because I do not mean to suggest that Wittgenstein is centrally concerned with scepticism in these notes. This chapter will be seen to further develop my earlier treatment of metaphysical doubt in Descartes (cf. chapter 8). It will also allow me to introduce the notion of a ‘formal concept’ in Wittgenstein, which I think is capable of elucidating the difficulties surrounding Kant’s transcendental schematism. These will be addressed in Part IV, where the focus will be on the category of causality (cf. chapter 16).

12 Solipsism in The Blue Book

I follow Wittgenstein’s treatment of solipsism and idealism in The Blue Book (1933–34) rather than in another text of the middle period, as The Blue Book offers the most definitive arrangement of the corresponding material. Similar topics are treated in the notebooks carrying the von Wright numbers 147 to 149, 151 and 156b (1934–36). Most remarks dealing with solipsism and idealism in these notebooks were published in an expanded version of Wittgenstein’s ‘Notes for Lectures on “Private Experience” and “Sense Data” ’. Other sources that I shall draw from are Rush Rhees’ lecture notes ‘The Language of Sense Data and Private Experience’ (1936), the Big Typescript (1932–33), and Wittgenstein’s Lectures, Cambridge, 1932–1935, edited by Alice Ambrose. The Blue Book divides rather neatly into two parts. The first deals with topics in the philosophy of mind and of language, on the one hand, and meta-philosophical questions, such as the nature of a philosophical problem, sources of metaphysical error, and the proper method of doing philosophy, on the other (BB: 1–43). After a short reflection of the latter kind, Wittgenstein proceeds with issues concerning personal experience, which he had postponed earlier in the text (cf. BB: 8, 16). He then exam-

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_12



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ines several attempts at expressing solipsism, all of which he repudiates, as either incoherent or as not expressing what they are meant to capture. The first of these statements is: ‘There is a temptation for me to say that only my own experience is real: “I know that I see, hear, feel pains, etc., but not that anyone else does. I can’t know this, because I am I and they are they.” ’ (BB: 46). The part in direct speech brings up a philosophical issue about knowing the minds of others. I cannot know what others see, hear, and feel, ‘because I am I and they are they’. The assumption underlying this model of what it would be to know the minds of others is that in order to know what another mind experiences, I must per impossibile be that other mind. We are forced to conclude that it is impossible to know what goes on in the minds of others, and even whether others are minded at all. This will be referred to as ‘transcendental realism about the mind’. The idea is best introduced with the help of the following passage from The Blue Book: The difficulty which we express by saying “I can’t know what he sees when he (truthfully) says that he sees a blue patch” arises from the idea that “knowing what he sees” means: “seeing that which he also sees”; not, however, in the sense in which we do so when we both have the same object before our eyes: but in the sense in which the object seen would be an object, say, in his head, or in him. The idea is that the same object may be before his eyes and mine, but that I can’t stick my head into his (or my mind into his, which comes to the same) so that the real and immediate object of his vision becomes the real and immediate object of my vision too. (BB: 61)

Self-awareness is not, as such, a way of knowing ‘things of the mind’ as they are in themselves. It is only when construed according to a certain model of knowing that it appears to promise the desired perfect accuracy. The requirement of the immediate presence of the object of knowledge rules out that I can ever know what someone else experiences. Mental undergoings are then considered as things whose esse is indeed percipii. This is an expression of transcendental realism, broadly conceived, concerning psychological knowledge and its objects (cf. chapter 11).1 I think 1A

similar conception regarding animal minds is critically examined in McDowell 1996: 121–123.

12 Solipsism in The Blue Book


that Kant himself is less susceptible to this kind of misconception than are many Kant scholars. Naturally, this is not everyone’s view. A passage from the first Critique that is often invoked in support of a contrary analysis is the following: ‘It is obvious that if someone wants to represent a thinking being, one must put oneself in its place, and thus substitute one’s own subject for the object one wants to consider[.]’ (A 353) Hacker, for instance, takes Kant to be implicitly committed to the possibility of a private language (cf. Hacker 2012: 12). This is also how Susanne Fromm read Kant, at a time when this was less common (cf. Fromm 1979: 89f., 167f., 187f.). Patricia Kitcher quotes the passage to support her contention that ‘Kant saw no philosophically interesting asymmetry between first and third person ascriptions of mental states’ and that he was ‘oblivious to the kinds of worries that generate philosophical anxiety about other minds’ (Kitcher 2000: 49). I can think of more than one way of reading the passage from Kant,2 but I agree that he, especially on account of what he says in the third Critique, is susceptible to the kind of criticism that derives from Wittgenstein’s private language discussion (cf. chapter 18). Still, drawing a conclusion such as Kitcher’s is, I think, excessive: As Fromm argued some years ago (1979), with its constant appeal to processes like perceiving, imagining, conceiving, and judging, Kant’s epistemology must have been a prime target of the later Wittgenstein’s attack on the confusions of previous philosophies. (Kitcher 2000: 48)

Simply in virtue of his appealing to perceiving, imagining, conceiving, and judging, Kant cannot be a prime target of Wittgenstein’s antimentalism (cf. Fromm 1979: 121). This might appear to be so, if we uncritically accept Fromm’s or Hacker’s readings of Kant. But any such criticism remains incomplete and inconclusive so long as it fails to show that a mentalistic conception of perception, imagination, and judgement is essential to Kant’s transcendental reasoning. As far as the interpretation of ‘judgement’ in the Critique is concerned, the opposite is true: Kant


suggest a reading of a closely related passage in chapter 14.


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conceives of a judgement always as meeting the condition of linguistic expressibility. This is certainly not too obvious and needs to be argued, as it was earlier in this study (cf. chapter 4). Where I do think that a Wittgenstein-styled criticism applies is to the idea of transcendental synthesis. This conception is introduced basically as a hypothesis into Kant’s philosophy at a different, explanatory level, in contrast to the level of ordinary experience. I shall focus in later chapters on the relation of the categories to experiential objects in Kant’s transcendental schematism and on how his baffling concept of ‘perception’ should be interpreted at the various levels it is invoked (cf. chapters 16 and 17). There is another parallel to transcendental realism about external objects that deserves emphasizing. I suggested earlier that doing away with a ‘veil of ideas’ conception of perception is not doing away with scepticism concerning the properties of things in space (cf. chapter 9). World-directed scepticism turns primarily on exploiting the possibility of error, and this does not imply a definite conception of empirical intuition. A similar point can be made in the present context. Doing away with the above conception of knowing other people’s minds is not doing away with other minds scepticism per se. That would be the case only if all kinds of other minds scepticism were to depend on that model. It will be remarked that the proposition ‘I know that I see, hear, feel pains, etc., but not that anyone else does’ does not entail that ‘only my own experience is real’ (BB: 46). The latter is, apparently, a metaphysical statement about the reality of experience, which does not follow immediately from epistemic considerations. So, what is their relation? To what extent is Wittgenstein concerned with knowledge in The Blue Book and to what extent with linguistic concepts? The connection of knowledge and meaning is explicitly addressed in a lecture given in the academic year 1932–33 (cf. ML: 50, AWL, Part I). There, Wittgenstein is reported to have said: To show what sense a proposition makes requires saying how it can be verified and what can be done with it. … Some people say that the question, “How can one know such a thing?”, is irrelevant to the question, “What is the meaning?” But an answer gives the meaning by showing the relation

12 Solipsism in The Blue Book


of the proposition to other propositions. That is, it shows what it follows from and what follows from it. (AWL: 19f.; cf. BB: 23f.)

Wittgenstein is not identifying the sense of a proposition with the way in which it is verified.3 He denies ‘that the verification gives the meaning’. ‘It merely determines the meaning, i.e., determines its use, or grammar.’ (AWL: 29, cf. ML: 59f.) He also denies that the meaning of a proposition is an ideally complete disjunction of propositions that can function as evidence for it. Accordingly, saying ‘When I see my finger, and it moves, then I will see that it moves’, determines the meaning of the proposition ‘My finger moves’. Ruling out all means of verifying it would also ‘destroy the meaning’ of the proposition (AWL: 29). This immediately relates to our present concerns. If what counts as a verification of a proposition helps to determine its sense, and if two propositions have very different verifications, it is natural to conclude that they also have different senses. This is what Wittgenstein says in a 1938 lecture about first-person utterances and third-person ascriptions of pain: If someone says ‘I have pain’ and someone else says of him, ‘he has pain’, does ‘I have pain’ mean the same as ‘he has pain’? How can they mean the same, since the ways of verifying them are different? You could say: ‘Our scheme of paradigms is too simple.’ (WCL: 6, Easter Term 1938)

We attribute psychological states to other people, but not to ourselves, on the basis of the relevant person’s verbal and non-verbal behaviour. In the absence of an account of this asymmetry, it is right to see this as supporting the view that ‘pain’ does not mean the same in my case as in the case of others. Since what counts as evidence for the application of a concept has implications for what the concept means, epistemological scepticism about other minds can transform into the position of conceptual solipsism, as one might call it. Returning to The Blue Book, it is something very much like this that we find: 3 Though

he gives the impression on earlier occasions that this is his view (cf. LWL: 66, 1931–32; WVC: 79).


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Shall we … call it an unnecessary hypothesis that anyone else has personal experience? – But is it an hypothesis at all? For how can I even make the hypothesis if it transcends all possible experience? How could such an hypothesis be backed by meaning? (Is it not like paper money, not backed by gold?) (BB: 48)

There is nothing that directly corresponds to the psychological undergoings of other people in my experience. The supposition that other people have pains ‘transcends all possible experience’. Although the phrase is Kantian, the relevant conception of ‘experience’ is not. ‘Experience’ is here narrowly conceived, restricted to what I am sensibly acquainted with. On this conception, it could never be known whether someone else is in pain, which, as Wittgenstein says, destroys the meaning of the corresponding attribution. It is, accordingly, not because Wittgenstein is primarily concerned with a conceptual investigation that the problem of solipsism becomes a problem about meaning, but because, for him, epistemic and conceptual considerations are interconnected (cf. LSD: 318). Two questions have been raised here concerning Wittgenstein’s discussion of solipsism. First, how is the meaning of ‘personal experience’, ‘pain’, and similar notions, as applied to oneself and to others, related to knowing whether these notions actually apply? Second, how is such knowledge or the lack thereof related to the reality of personal experience, in one’s own case and in the cases of others? The kinds of evidence in the first-personal and in the third-personal case are entirely different, or, rather, there is no reliance on ‘evidence’ in the former case at all. The problem we are concerned with is not just that one shall never be able to test directly whether someone else has the same experience as oneself; it is even impossible to conceive of such a test (cf. Frege 1918: 67). If the immediate object of someone else’s vision were somehow to become the immediate object of my vision, it would be unclear why it should still be his visual object. Given the assumption that there would have to be some such test for the third-person attribution of pain to make sense, it is right to conclude that we cannot make sense of the hypothesis. This is how we get from the first statement of solipsism to the second:

12 Solipsism in The Blue Book


(1) There is a temptation for me to say that only my own experience is real: “I know that I see, hear, feel pains, etc., but not that anyone else does[.]” (BB: 46) (2) “How can we believe that the other has pain; what does it mean to believe this? How can the expression of such a supposition make sense?” (BB: 48) (3) “When anything is seen (really seen), it is always I who see it”. (BB: 61) No account of the first part of (1), ‘that only my own experience is real’, has yet emerged. The parenthesis in statement (3) suggests an adverbial understanding of statement (1). Accordingly, Wittgenstein would not say that only my experience is real, but that only my experience is really experience. What might be called the ‘experience of other people’ is experience only in a derivative sense, just as imagined red might be called ‘red’ only in a derivative sense: ‘The imagery of the wish surely shows us something less definite, something hazier, than the reality of the paper being red.’ (BB: 60). In reaction, we may want to use another linguistic expression, ‘pale red’, when we talk of red as the object of a wish. Correspondingly, one might be inclined to think of the pain of others as of a ‘pale’ variety of real pain. About statement (3), Wittgenstein says: ‘What should strike us about this expression is the phrase “always I”. Always who? – For, queer enough, I don’t mean: “always L. W.” ’ (BB: 61) ‘Always I’ does not mean ‘the person of the utterer’. If it were to mean that, then he or she could be identified with the help of ordinary ways of establishing personal identity. People can be identified by their faces, bodily appearances, voices, characteristic habits, legal documents, or by the way they recall particular facts. These means of establishing identity are not available to the solipsist. This is not so much because of the implication that he would accept being a living body in space. A solipsist need not necessarily be a sceptic about material bodies. He could consider himself as the only real person in a fake society of humanoid automata. The implication that must worry the solipsist is that if he were to accept these means of identification, he could not reject their applicability to other human beings. Whatever determines his identity must be something that cannot determine any other subject.


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Wittgenstein’s focus is on the generality of the claim. He asks: ‘What is it I want all these cases of seeing to have in common?’ (BB: 63) What the solipsist means, apparently, is the subject of all seeing, that is, all real seeing. If there is such a thing, surely the identity of his subject must be independent of contingent facts about our bodily selves: What is it I want all these cases of seeing to have in common? As an answer I have to confess to myself that it is not my bodily appearance. I don’t always see part of my body when I see. And it isn’t essential that my body, if seen amongst the things I see, should always look the same. … And I feel the same way about … the characteristics of my behaviour, and even about my memories. – When I think about it a little longer I see that what I wished to say was: [4] “Always when anything is seen, something is seen.” I.e., that of which I said it continued during all the experience of seeing was not any particular entity “I”, but the experience of seeing itself. (BB: 63)

The first thing to note is that (4) contains no personal pronoun at all. Wittgenstein is here not expounding more raw material for reflection; he is stating a result. Otherwise, he would not add (immediately after the last quotation): ‘This may become clearer if we imagine the man who makes our solipsistic statement to point to his eyes while he says “I”.’ (BB: 63) Wittgenstein must be referring to ‘When anything is seen (really seen), it is always I who see it’, which is (3). This suggests two things. First, (4) is meant to show in what way the solipsistic statement goes wrong, namely, by becoming tautologous (cf. BB: 71, LSD: 344). Second, in the course of trying to express solipsism, reference to a subject drops out as inessential. The ‘I’ of the solipsist has ended up as a merely logical correlate of the succession of perceptions. The ‘I’ is a mere vehicle for expressing the fact of seeing that does not distinguish anything from anything. As such, it can be replaced by an impersonal formulation, such as ‘There is …’ (cf. AWL: 22, LSD: 318) It might at first be surprising to read in one of Wittgenstein’s lectures that ‘[w]hat the solipsist wants is not a notation in which the ego has a monopoly, but one in which the ego vanishes’ (AWL: 22). A remark from the Nachlass suggests that the motive behind introducing the passive voice is precisely to avoid reference to a particular person:

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What I wished was to give a description of what is seen without mentioning a person. “Whenever anything is really seen it is I who see.” 1) Why then use the ‘I’ at all? What you plead for is a notation in which you say ‘so & so is seen’ instead of ‘I see so & so’. (vW 147: 28r, 1934, February or later)

This passage would make little sense if ‘solipsism’ in Wittgenstein were to be the name of a coherent philosophical position. ‘Solipsism’ is here better understood as a title for a cluster of views, or a movement of thought, whose internal inconsistencies incite a logical progression that begins with scepticism about other minds and ends with an impersonal notation for the description of experience. Still unclear, however, is what the man who utters the solipsistic statement (3) takes himself to refer to. Certainly, not to his body. A little later on in the text, Wittgenstein offers an alternative expression of the underlying attitude: ‘What tempted me to say [3] “it is always I who see when anything is seen”, I could also have yielded to by saying: [5] “whenever anything is seen, it is this which is seen”, accompanying the word “this” by a gesture embracing my visual field[.]’ (BB: 64) The visual field does not belong to the things I see. The things seen are those inside the visual field; at the same time, no particular thing in the visual field is essential to real seeing, as understood by the solipsist. He imagines himself to express a connection between him and seeing, while he really says no more than what belongs to seeing as such. ‘The idea that he had made a significant statement’, Wittgenstein explains, ‘arose from a confusion corresponding to the confusion between what we shall call “the geometrical eye” and “the physical eye” ’ (BB: 63). The distinction between the geometrical and the physical eye is difficult to grasp. Before approaching this intricate task, I wish to pause for a moment to compare Wittgenstein’s discussion of solipsism with Kant’s criticism of problematic idealism. I said in an earlier chapter that the most convincing way of which I am aware to explain the illusion in the fourth A-paralogism is to maintain that if the subject is taken for a simple and permanent substance whose nature excludes everything relational, according to the first three paralogisms, this will naturally lead to a view of empirical intuition as essentially indirect (cf. chapter 11). In the middle Wittgenstein, such a view is addressed only at transitory


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stages of his discussion of idealism and solipsism. This is because of the connection he forges between questions of evidence and questions of meaning. It is, however, rather obvious that the same features are at issue here as in the paralogism chapter in the Critique: substantiality, simplicity, and identity. At the present stage of the solipsistic train of thought, the subject is understood as substantial, simple and persistent through time, and just as in the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances, all possibilities to determine it have been excluded by the solipsist. At this stage, the solipsistic ‘I’ comes closest to the subject in the argument for problematic idealism, which is a mere correlate of experience that bears no determinable relation to it. It is here that I take the ‘lesson’ to apply that Wittgenstein says solipsism teaches us. The context of this oft-quoted passage from his ‘Notes for Lectures’ is a discussion of the question of what it is for a proposition about personal experience to be true. The discussion has gone into a stalemate at that point: neither can a correspondence of the proposition to a private experience make it true, nor can there be no object at all. The latter is associated with behaviourism, which invites the following objection: “But aren’t you neglecting something – the experience or whatever you might call it – ? Almost the world behind the mere words?” But here solipsism teaches us a lesson: It is that thought which is on the way to destroy this error. For if the world is idea it isn’t any person’s idea. (Solipsism stops short of saying this and says that it is my idea.) But then how could I say what the world is if the realm of ideas has no neighbour? What I do comes to defining the word ‘world’. (NFL: 255)

The line of thought we are following points to the same conclusion as Kant’s Refutation of Idealism, namely, that if experience is, or were to be, purely subjective, then it is, or would be, ‘experience’ without anyone’s experiencing. Judged from the way Wittgenstein talks about the idea, he does not seem to think that this is necessarily absurd. The outcome is lacking in usefulness; it comes down to a new definition of ‘world’, one

12 Solipsism in The Blue Book


that conceptually deprives it of a ‘neighbour’, as Wittgenstein puts it.4 It is turned into something that cannot possibly be shared. The confusion involved in the statement quoted above, that ‘when anything is seen, it is always I who see it’ (BB: 63), is analogous to the confusion of the physical with the geometrical eye, we are told. I said that this comparison is difficult to comprehend. Wittgenstein begins with introducing four criteria for pointing to, or moving one’s hand towards, the place which is said to ‘see’. To determine whether one’s hand is moving ‘towards the geometrical eye’, only one of the following criteria is used (cf. BB: 63f.): (i) the characteristic kinaesthetic experience of raising my hand to my eye (or eyes); (ii) the tactile sensation of touching my eye; (iii) the experience of seeing my hand moving towards my eye; (iv) what I see when I look into a mirror and see my finger nearing my eye. As he proceeds, he talks of a ‘second criterion’, by which he does not seem to mean (ii), but the second visual criterion, which is (iv): If that place on my body which, we say, ‘sees’ is to be determined by moving my finger towards my eye, according to the second criterion, then it is conceivable that I may see with what according to other criteria is the tip of my nose, or places on my forehead; or I might in this way point to a place lying outside my body. If I wish a person to point to his eye (or his eyes) according to the second criterion alone, I shall express my wish by saying: “Point to your geometrical eye (or eyes)”. (BB: 64)

Preceding this quotation, Wittgenstein mentions only the last two criteria. He says: ‘As to visual criteria, there are two I can adopt.’ He then

4 The

phrase ‘to have no neighbour’ occurs in various places in Wittgenstein (cf. ML: 102, PR: 85, BB: 71f., NFL: 229, 255). Hacker traces the phrase back to a film simile which Wittgenstein uses in Philosophical Remarks to clarify the nature of solipsism of the present moment (cf. Hacker 1986: 231; cf. AWL: 25).


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goes on to talk about ‘the second criterion’, as quoted above. It might be thought that (ii) drops out of consideration anyway because it is a non-visual criterion. The notion of the geometrical eye might be taken to be too intimately associated with the experience of seeing to allow for identification with eyes closed (cf. Pears 1988: 241–243, 322). But that does not seem to me obvious. There are passages that suggest otherwise (cf. NFL: 255, vW 147: 25v, 1934). I think a decision can be made on textual grounds. At the beginning of the quotation above, Wittgenstein speaks of ‘moving my finger towards my eye, according to the second criterion’ (BB: 64, emphasis added), and not of the tactile sensation of touching it. It is also difficult to explain how the geometrical eye should end up on one’s forehead, if its place were to be determined by touch. If this is correct, then I point to the geometrical eye when, looking into a mirror, I see my finger nearing the eye, at the exclusion of any direct perceptions of my finger. Whatever is pointed to by this criterion alone is the geometrical eye. According to other criteria, I may be pointing to a place where there is not even a part of my body, so that what is pointed to has no determinate relation to any physical thing. It would make no sense to say that I see myself pointing to my eye in the mirror but am really pointing to something else. If it looks to me that I am pointing to the geometrical eye, I am pointing to it. So, let us try to unpack the analogy. The solipsist statement (3) is: ‘It is always I who see when anything is seen.’ As Wittgenstein instructs us, ‘we [may] imagine the man who makes our solipsistic statement to point to his eyes while he says “I” ’ (BB: 63). He adds: ‘The idea that he had made a significant statement arose from a confusion corresponding to the confusion between what we shall call “the geometrical eye” and “the physical eye”.’ (BB: 63) As I have noted, there is no distinction between ‘it looks to me that I am pointing to the geometrical eye’ and ‘I am pointing to it’. I have also noted that no one else should be able to identify what the solipsist is referring to. If someone else were to be able to do that, it would be sufficient proof that I (the solipsist) failed to point to the ego of all experience. The confusion that parallels the confusion between the geometrical and the physical eye is that the solipsist still thinks that he is referring to an ego that, though non-physical, is re-identifiable over time,

12 Solipsism in The Blue Book


while in fact it is no thing at all (cf. NFL: 257). The illusion is that, even after having severed all relations to a corporeal subject, there is still an individual subject I can mean. Being aware that his train of thought has led him to reduce the other propositions to the tautological ‘Always when anything is seen, something is seen’, the solipsist readopts the first-person singular pronoun in a further attempt to state his position: (6) Let us then discard the “always” in our expression. Then I can still express my solipsism by saying, “Only what I see (or: see now) is really seen”. (BB: 64) Why is the ‘I’ readopted after having been discarded as inappropriate for the expression of solipsism? What makes it possible for it to come into consideration again? Wittgenstein says that now the word ‘always’ is to be discarded. He seems to imply that the solipsistic statement is no longer supposed to express what is common to all experiences (of real seeing), but is viewed as an isolated, and supposedly meaningful, event. The sequel gives some support to this reading: ‘And here I am tempted to say: “Although by the word ‘I’ I don’t mean L. W., it will do if the others understand ‘I’ to mean L. W., if just now I am in fact L. W.”.’ (BB: 64) Wittgenstein does not go into what elsewhere he calls ‘solipsism of the present moment’ (AWL: 25). He does not say that ‘now’ is used here without contrast; that it has no neighbour. Instead, he works his way towards an account of what might prompt this kind of utterance: When I said, from my heart, that only I see, I was also inclined to say that by “I” I didn’t really mean L. W., although for the benefit of my fellow men I might say “It is now L. W. who really sees” though this is not what I really mean. I could almost say that by “I” I mean something which just now inhabits L. W., something which the others can’t see. (I meant my mind, but could only point to it via my body.) (BB: 66)

It is right after this passage that Wittgenstein introduces his famous contrast between use as object and use as subject of ‘I’ (cf. BB: 66– 69). The distinction is not invoked in Wittgenstein’s overall strategy of


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reducing the statements of solipsism to tautologies, but rather belongs to his account of how the idea of a thinking substance may have emerged in the first place. There is too much to say about the distinction for it not to deserve a chapter on its own (cf. chapter 13). I conclude the present chapter with a discussion of one of the last two statements of solipsism in The Blue Book: (7) ‘Now when in the solipsistic way I say “This is what’s really seen”, I point before me and it is essential that I point visually.’ (BB: 71) Wittgenstein’s wording of statement (7) may suggest that by pointing ‘visually’ he means pointing by focusing one’s attention on what is given in experience. But that is excluded by the sequel: ‘If I pointed sideways or behind me – as it were, to things which I don’t see – the pointing would be meaningless to me[.]’ (BB: 71) Evidently, I cannot focus my visual attention on things I do not see. Thus, ‘pointing visually’ should be explained as ‘pointing visibly’, as long as this is not understood as implying the experience-independent existence of the object seen. Wittgenstein continues: ‘But this means that when I point before me saying “this is what’s really seen”, although I make the gesture of pointing, I don’t point to one thing as opposed to another.’ (BB: 71) He uses an instructive metaphor to bring out the emptiness of the utterance: When it makes sense to say “I see this”, or “this is seen”, pointing to what I see, it also makes sense to say “I see this”, or “this is seen”, pointing to something I don’t see [i.e. it would then be false to say ‘I see this’]. When I made my solipsist statement, I pointed, but I robbed the pointing of its sense by inseparably connecting that which points and that to which it points. I constructed a clock with all its wheels, etc., and in the end fastened the dial to the pointer and made it go round with it. And in this way the solipsists’ “Only this is really seen” reminds us of a tautology. (BB: 71)

The moving pointer of Wittgenstein’s clock cannot move relative to what it is supposed to point to. Even if it happens to be directed towards a digit, it does not point to something as opposed to something else. The clock could just as well stand still. Similarly, the solipsist’s visible

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pointing gesture will always ‘point’ to present experience. The solipsist is ‘pointing to that which in [his] grammar has no neighbour’ (BB: 71f.). From the first-person perspective, what I say ‘I see’ and what I indicate when stating ‘This is what is seen’ always coincide. In order to say something false I would have to point outside my visual field. The solipsist, however, excludes these cases as senseless. He also does not wish to point to something in the visual field as opposed to something else but rather wishes to say whose or which experience is real experience. As a consequence, his utterance ‘I see this’, accompanied by a pointing gesture to what he sees, reduces to an utterance like ‘I see what my nose points to’, or, ‘I see what I see’, and these statements are void. Wittgenstein’s reasoning here closely corresponds to the one given above that reduced statement (3) to something like a tautology.

13 Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited

The philosopher who first linked Kant’s criticism of the paralogisms of rational psychology to Wittgenstein’s conception of the use as subject of ‘I’ was Strawson. He took their diagnoses of how the idea of a persisting, immaterial thinking thing may have come about to be closely related: ‘A slogan-like summary of Kant’s answer would be: the unity of experience is confused with the experience of unity.’ (Strawson 1966: 37) Although no mention is made of The Blue Book (1958) there is little doubt that it is the source of the following way of making the point: And now we come to the fact that lies at the root of the Cartesian illusion. It may be put as follows. When a man (a subject of experience) ascribes a current or directly remembered state of consciousness to himself, no use whatever of any criteria of personal identity is required to justify his use of the pronoun “I” to refer to the subject of that experience. … (I think it could be said, without serious exaggeration, that it is because Kant recognized this truth that his treatment of the subject is so greatly superior to Hume’s.) (Strawson 1966: 164f.)

It will be remembered that Descartes’ actual line of thought is more circuitous (cf. chapter 8). When he argues that ‘I am, I exist’, he does © The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_13



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not take the argument to establish that the ego exists as a thinking being and nothing else (cf. AT VII: 25). According to Descartes, no substance is immediately known, and so he still needs an argument for the real distinction between mind and body. Strawson might still be right, insofar as the conceptual properties of the ‘I’ may have contributed to Descartes’ conviction that there must be a thinking substance, although the argument he ultimately found satisfying is more complicated. In the passage quoted above, Strawson is apparently alluding to the following passage from Wittgenstein’s Blue Book: We feel then that in the cases in which “I” is used as subject, we don’t use it because we recognize a particular person by his bodily characteristics; and this creates the illusion that we use this word to refer to something bodiless, which, however, has its seat in our body. In fact this seems to be the real ego, the one of which it was said, “Cogito, ergo sum”. (BB: 69)

As has been suggested in the last chapter, Wittgenstein’s approach of reducing the solipsistic statements to tautologies does not invoke the distinction between the uses as subject and as object of ‘I’. The distinction pertains to his account of how the idea of a thinking substance may have emerged in the first place. The Blue Book passage in which Wittgenstein introduces the distinction is more often referenced than actually read and interpreted. This must be one of the reasons why some misconceptions about Wittgenstein’s views have such wide currency. These misconceptions seem to be reproduced in the secondary literature by reference to contributions that are now considered as superior to Wittgenstein’s own discussion, which after all is very brief. Another reason is that the only other textual source for the subject-object use distinction, notebook 147, has been neglected. To my knowledge, nobody has payed attention to the hint given in von Wright’s ‘Wittgenstein Papers’: ‘The later part of this notebook consists of drafts for the Blue Book.’ (PO: 497) If one checks up on these pages written in English and German, one sees that they include a draft of the Blue Book passage where the distinction is introduced (cf. vW 147: 35r–v). As will be seen, this source allows us to correct some misattributions to Wittgenstein.

13 Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited


The quotation given above says that since we do not need to attend to any outward characteristics of ourselves in order to use the ‘I’, we are tempted to think that the real I has its seat in the body, without being identical to it. As Wittgenstein says in a later passage of The Blue Book, this impression is reinforced by the fact that in psychological firstperson statements ‘we can’t substitute for “I” a description of a body’ (BB: 74). That is, we cannot substitute ‘I’ by such a description and say that the body ‘remembers’, or that it ‘intends to do something’, or ‘is in pain’. At the same time, the referring expression ‘I’ suggests that we are talking about an entity that can be and do all these things (cf. AWL: 60, 1933–34). This line of thought looks all the more compelling as there is a noun that seems to stand for such a thing, namely, ‘the mind’. This identification is also made by Descartes, when he asks: ‘But what am I to say about this mind, or about myself?’ (AT VII: 33)1 In the first sentence of the following quotation, Wittgenstein makes allusion to this account: Now the idea that the real I lives in my body is connected with the peculiar grammar of the word “I”, and the misunderstandings this grammar is liable to give rise to. There are two different cases in the use of the word “I” (or “my”) which I might call “the use as object” and “the use as subject”. Examples of the first kind of use are these: “My arm is broken”, “I have grown six inches”, “I have a bump on my forehead”, “The wind blows my hair about”. Examples of the second kind are: “I see so-and-so”, “I hear so-and-so”, “I try to lift my arm”, “I think it will rain”, “I have toothache”. One can point to the difference between these two categories by saying: The cases of the first category involve the recognition of a particular person, and there is in these cases the possibility of an error, or as I should rather put it: The possibility of an error has been provided for. (BB: 66f.)

According to the dominant interpretation, the distinction between the use as subject and the use as object of ‘I’ can be explained in terms of two contrasts: (I) the contrast that the ‘I’, in the first kind of statements, but not in the second, is immune to referential error, and 1 In

Latin: ‘Quid autem dicam de hac ipsâ mente, sive de me ipso?’ See also AT VII: 85, l. 30–86, l. 5 and AT VIII-1: 41, l. 4f.


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(II) the contrast that, if the ‘I’ is used as subject, the corresponding statement ascribes a psychological property, and if used as object, a physical property. The first contrast is often expressed alternatively in terms of ‘immunity to error through misidentification’, rather than ‘immunity to referential error’; both formulations occur in the literature. This shift in terminology corresponds to an apparent indifference towards the distinction between reference and identification (cf. Glock 1996: 161, Glock & Hacker 1996: 99f.). It is not altogether clear whether this is an indifference that is attributed to Wittgenstein, or whether it is the commentators themselves who tend to conflate these things. David Bakhurst, for instance, writes: ‘In contrast [to names, e.g.] uses of ‘I’ seem immune to error through misidentification or failure of reference.’ A misidentification, Bakhurst says, occurs when we ‘take someone else for James’, and a failure of reference when we ‘simply fail to refer to anyone’ (Bakhurst 2001: 231). Bakhurst seems to think that it is immunity to both kinds of errors that characterizes the subject use of ‘I’ (cf. Bakhurst 2001: 232) However, a failure of reference is clearly not the same as a misidentification. A failure of reference is concerned with the referential terms of a proposition; something I purport to talk about may not exist. An identification, in contrast, can only be rendered as a judgement whose logical form is something along the lines of ‘a = b’. The conflation is equally obvious in an article by Béatrice Longuenesse. Contrasting Kant’s concern with the self and the contemporary discussion of immunity to error through misidentification, she writes: ‘Kant’s question is not what we take ‘I’ to refer to, much less how we take it to refer (with or without criteria of identification, with or without immunity to error through misidentification).’ (Longuenesse 2012: 92 n. 18; cf. 96) Longuenesse’s suggestion is that the use as object of ‘I’ – ‘in the Wittgenstein/Shoemaker/Evans sense’, as she says – is a matter of how the word ‘I’ refers, as if it were to change its referential properties in object uses.2 But this is to forget what Anscombe has shown in her

2 Also

in Moran 2001: 133 and possibly Shoemaker 1984: 558 = 9.

13 Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited


classic paper ‘The First Person’: that any correct explanation of the use of ‘I’ will invoke a word with the property that it purports to explain, and whatever explanation does not contain such a word is in any case not equivalent to ‘I’ (cf. Anscombe 1975: 47 = 142). This is independent of her controversial conclusion that the word ‘I’ does not refer. In a more recent paper, John Campbell has related the point to the problem of immunity to error through misidentification. I agree with Campbell that the difference between the cases cannot be explained in terms of how the reference of ‘I’ is fixed, since if it is fixed other than by ‘I’ or ‘my’ itself, the analysis is incorrect (cf. Campbell 2012: 13). The contrast numbered as (I) above thematizes the question of what distinguishes the two uses of ‘I’; the second contrast (II) is concerned with what falls under it. Many commentators agree with Bakhurst when he says that, for Wittgenstein, ‘first-person psychological ascription[s]’ feature a subject use, while ‘when I ascribe bodily states to myself ’, this involves an object use of ‘I’ (Bakhurst 2001: 232).3 Bakhurst is untroubled by the fact that the example ‘I try to lift my arm’, quoted above as a use as subject, is not obviously psychological. It reports an attempt to do something, trying to lift one’s arm – it might be broken, or pressed down by another person. This is compatible with managing to move it a little bit. Wittgenstein offers different formulations of what distinguishes the two uses. He says in the longer quotation above that the ‘cases of the first category involve the recognition of a particular person, and there is in these cases the possibility of an error’ (BB: 67). In the draft version of the passage, this is preceded by a crossed-out sentence that states the difference in terms of a question: ‘The first grammatical difference between these two kinds of cases that strikes us is that in the first kind of case it makes sense to ask: are you sure that this is your arm?’ (vW 147: 35r, transl. B. R.) In the printed text, the question appears at the end of the following quotation, which is the continuation of the longer passage quoted above (cf. BB: 66f.):

3 See,

e.g. Evans 1982: 216–218, Coliva 2012: 25.

Hacker 2019a: 262,

Glock 1996: 162,

Sluga 2011: 63,


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The possibility of failing to score has been provided for in a pin game. On the other hand, it is not one of the hazards of the game that the balls should fail to come up if I have put a penny in the slot. It is possible that, say in an accident, I should feel a pain in my arm, see a broken arm at my side, and think it is mine, when really it is my neighbour’s. And I could, looking into a mirror, mistake a bump on his forehead for one on mine. On the other hand, there is no question of recognizing a person when I say I have toothache. To ask “are you sure that it’s you who have pains?” would be nonsensical. (BB: 67)

Apparently, Wittgenstein’s talk of a ‘recognition of a particular person’ fits the example of the bump on one’s forehead best. It does not sound entirely natural in the case of seeing a broken arm on one’s side. What I take Wittgenstein to mean, approximately, is that, in some cases, a firstperson singular statement is made on the basis of a perceptual mode of presentation that is of the same nature as that which is involved in empirical statements about ordinary objects, while in other cases it is made without such a basis. An ‘I’ statement allows two different focal stresses: ‘I have such-and-such’ and ‘I have such-and-such’. It is the first focal stress that is relevant for Wittgenstein’s criterial question: ‘Are you sure that it is you who have such-and-such?’ The applicability or nonapplicability of this question is the basic grammatical difference between the two uses of ‘I’. In much of the secondary literature it is overlooked that this question is phrased in the second person. As will be seen, a given use of ‘I’ counts as an object use when it can be made on the basis of a perceptual mode of presentation, not only when it is made on such a basis. The criticism made of Wittgenstein’s distinction roughly divides into criticism of the conception itself and criticism of his categorization of the already mentioned examples. This is a rough distinction, as also the second kind of criticism involves questions about what the distinction consists in. The first kind of criticism is closely associated with Hacker, who after an initially positive reaction has later found little that is favourable to say about Wittgenstein’s distinction. The second kind of criticism is associated with Gareth Evans’ discussion in The Varieties of Reference. I begin with Hacker’s criticism:

13 Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited


[I]t is by no means clear that in such sentences as ‘I have grown six inches’, ‘I have a bump on my forehead’, or ‘I have broken my arm’ there is a recognition of a person (myself ), [footnote: Unless, perhaps, I say this on looking at a photograph of myself.] or that the possibility of misidentification has been provided for in the sense in which it has in ‘N. N. has broken his arm’. I may be mistaken about whether my arm or your arm is broken or, in exceptional circumstances, whether this arm is mine or yours. But in such cases, when I mistakenly say ‘I have broken my arm’, for example, I do not misidentify myself or mistake myself for you; rather, I mistake my arm for yours, mistakenly attribute to myself something correctly attributable to you. (Hacker 2019a: 263)

This is undoubtedly correct. In such sentences as ‘I have broken my arm’, when it is actually my neighbour’s, I do not ‘mistake myself for you’, because such a ‘mistake’ makes no sense. That is even more obvious in Bakhurst’s way of putting it: ‘I am not confused about whom I suppose to have broken my arm.’4 I do not understand what kind of mistake that would be, as nobody does. The criticism seems to be that Wittgenstein thought that a mistake is possible that cannot even be stated intelligibly. But then one certainly should become at least a little doubtful about whether one is interpreting the contrast correctly. This interpretation has been challenged by William Child. I agree with Child when he writes that when Wittgenstein says that “the possibility of an error had been provided for” in the as-object case, he is not talking about the possibility of referential error – the possibility that my use of ‘I’ … may refer to someone other than me; he is talking about the possibility that I may be wrong in thinking that it is I who have the property that I am ascribing to myself. (Child 2011: 378 n.)

Wittgenstein’s example has already been quoted: ‘I could, looking into a mirror, mistake a bump on his forehead for one on mine.’ (BB: 67) Supposing that the subject knows that someone has a bump on his forehead, there is a straightforward sense in which I can ‘mistake someone

4 Bakhurst 2001: 232,

referring approvingly to Glock & Hacker 1996: 100.


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else for me’. Wittgenstein is clearly making the assumption that the subject knows that someone has a pump on his forehead, namely, from seeing it in the mirror. In the draft version of the passage, the point is made more elaborately: ‘I can, e.g. in a mirror, take my face for his (me for him) and a bump on his forehead for one on mine.’ (vW 147: 35r, transl. B. R.)5 The situation is one in which it looks to me as if I were to be in a situation in which I see myself in a mirror. I mistake the appearance of a person in a mirror for an appearance of myself. Once the view is abandoned that a misidentification occurs in such sentences as ‘My arm is broken’, or ‘I have a bump on my forehead’, as suggested by Hacker, a misidentification is clearly intelligible, as it is now understood to occur at the level of the evidential basis for affirming these sentences. I now turn to the second part of Hacker’s objection, that when I mistakenly say that I broke my arm, I do not mistake myself for someone else, but ‘mistakenly attribute to myself something correctly attributable to you’ (Hacker 2019a: 263). This objection invokes the failure of implication (2) below against Wittgenstein’s account: (1) ‘I know that I have such-and-such’ ⇒ ‘I know that someone has suchand-such’ (2) ‘I was mistaken in believing that I had such-and-such’ ⇒ ‘I was mistaken about who had such-and-such’ If I know that I have such-and-such, this trivially implies that I know that someone has such-and-such (namely, me). In order to make the second entailment valid, one has to add that the subject knows that someone, one person, has such-and-such, otherwise the first proposition can be true and the second false. If the second is false, it is also false that he mistakes someone else’s appearance for his. This is what I take the second part of Hacker’s objection to be. I have suggested that the two uses are different with regard to the applicability of the question: ‘Are you sure that it is you who have such5 Note

that Wittgenstein should have begun ‘I can, e.g. in a mirror, take his face for mine (him for me) …’, and not the other way around. Otherwise he could only take a bump on his forehead for a bump on the forehead of someone else.

13 Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited


and-such?’ An object use of ‘I’ is not a use that implies the actual recognition of a particular person but only the possibility of such a recognition. The question is applicable if and only if it is possible to make the corresponding first-person singular statement on a perceptual basis that may induce a mistaken identification, such as ‘I = the person in the mirror’. Although it is correct that when I am mistaken that I have suchand-such, I am not always mistaken about the person who has it, all that is needed is the further assumption that the subject knows that someone has such-and-such. Wittgenstein’s examples are simply designed in such a way as to presuppose that the subject knows that at least someone has such-and-such, which takes care of the second part of Hacker’s criticism. What has been said also suggests an answer to Evans’ criticism, more recently repeated by Crispin Wright (cf. Wright 2012: 249f.). Evans takes himself to disagree with Wittgenstein when he argues that immunity to error extends to ‘self-ascription of physical properties’: [Our present concern is] Wittgenstein’s treatment of examples like ‘The wind is blowing my hair’. For it was this treatment which gave rise to the widespread belief that the phenomenon of immunity to error through misidentification, which is so central to the notion of self-consciousness, does not extend to self-ascriptions of physical properties. But of course it does. There is a way of knowing that the property of ξ ’s hair being blown by the wind is currently instantiated, such that when the first component expresses knowledge gained in this way, the utterance ‘The wind is blowing someone’s hair, but is it my hair that the wind is blowing?’ will not make sense [and thus involve a subject use of ‘I’]. (Evans 1982: 218)

There are indeed two ways of coming to know that the wind blows my hair about: (a) I could perceive that my hair is blown about in a way that is not crucially different from the perception of someone else’s hair being blown about, as when I see myself in a mirror. (b) I may come to know it solely by the particular feeling caused on my scalp.


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The second possibility, (b), is a way of gaining knowledge about oneself that, in Evans’ terminology, is ‘identification-free’ (cf. Evans 1982: 180– 182). That is, if this kind of evidence is present, it cannot be evidence for anybody else’s hair being blown about except mine. If it is evidence for someone’s hair being blown about, it is evidence for my hair being blown about. However, contrary to what Evans thinks, this cannot pose a problem for Wittgenstein’s account. In The Blue Book, the relevant question is phrased in the second person, not in the first as in the above quotation from Evans. Since it is possible to know that my hair is blown about in the way indicated in (a), the question, asked by someone else, makes sense, and thus ‘The wind blows my hair about’ contains an object use of ‘my’, if we apply Wittgenstein’s criterion. As do most commentators, Evans takes Wittgenstein to restrict immunity to error through misidentification to psychological ‘I’ statements (cf. Evans 1982: 182, n. 55). I have already noted that ‘I try to lift my arm’ is not a clear case. To try to lift one’s arm is not a purely psychological activity. The draft version of the Blue Book passage where the distinction is introduced is instructive on this point. There, we find the following examples for uses as subject of ‘I’: ‘ “I see –”, “I hear –”, “I want to move my arm”, “I bang on the table”, etc., “I feel pain”, etc.’ (vW 147: 35r, transl. B. R.) Wittgenstein first omits ‘I feel pain’, which is usually taken to be the paradigmatic example for a subject use. Only at second blush does he cross out ‘etc.’, add the example, and again write ‘etc.’. This means that, for Wittgenstein, the subject use of ‘I’ extends to first-person singular statements about bodily movements that involve intention, or volition. As a result, a statement like ‘I am walking’ counts as involving a subject use of ‘I’, while the object use of ‘I’, or ‘my’, is limited to things that happen to the body I am. The point is indeed nicely illustrated by the example ‘The wind blows my hair about’. Against Evans, Child contends that, according to Wittgenstein, ‘judgements about the position and movement of our own limbs’ are also immune to error through misidentification (Child 2011: 378). Wittgenstein’s example ‘I bang on the table’ certainly points in that direction. On the other hand, Child agrees with Evans in that first-person statements about the position and movements of our limbs display this immunity because they are typically made on the basis of proprioceptive and kinaesthetic

13 Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited


sensations. Child contends that ‘the Blue Book contains a discussion of our judgements about the position and movement of our own limbs [cf. p. 50–53] in which Wittgenstein is clear that such judgements are typically made on a distinctively first-person basis’. What Wittgenstein does say is that it characterizes the grammar of ‘My finger moves’ that we regard ‘I feel it move’, ‘He sees it move’, and so on, as pieces of evidence for it, and that is a quite different claim (cf. BB: 51). Something may count as evidence for something else without being typically invoked to support it. Moreover, there is a passage from Wittgenstein’s ‘Lectures on Volition’ from Michaelmas Term 1940 that does not sit well with such an attribution: That he has feelings in his arm, certainly, and it might be that if these receptors were destroyed, his feelings would be absent. If these feelings were absent, this would mean my receptors were destroyed, and, therefore, I would not know. This may be so. But it does not mean that you know by your feelings. You will say, ‘It is the characteristic feeling of doing this’, and you will further say that if I could, by means of electrical currents, produce these feelings, you would believe you had moved your finger. My answer is that you have not any remote idea how to compare these feelings. It might be possible to cheat someone, and to make him believe. But you can’t say that he did so by producing the same feeling, unless the same feeling is the feeling produced by that move. We compare feelings by the movements we make. (WCL: 272, cf. PI §598)

However exactly one interprets this passage, it is certainly in tension with the idea that we typically rely on proprioceptive ‘information’ to know where we put our own feet and the rest. It should also be clear that we cannot generally know the position of all parts of our bodies by the sensations we have in them on pain of a vicious regress. I cannot generally be in need of proprioceptive ‘information’ about, for example, where my head is. A proprioceptive sensation can only be useful relative to a frame of reference that is not determined in that way. ‘I bang on the table’, taken as exemplifying a subject use of ‘I’, suggests an account along the following lines. It is characteristic of something done voluntarily, or consciously, that it can be counted (‘One, two,


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three …’) as a more or less determined, perhaps open-ended, episode of activity in time. When I am asked, ‘Are you sure that it is you who is sitting at the desk?’, any sitting that might otherwise occur is irrelevant. What I am asked, apparently, is whether this sitting at the desk could be done by someone else, while any such ‘activity’ is eo ipso the activity of a particular person. If the asker refers to one such activity, the question of the agent is settled. This might be called an ‘actional’ subject use of ‘I’. It should be noted, however, that the immunity extends beyond episodes of activity a person wants to do. I may be rolled around in a wheel chair against my will, where it makes no sense to ask whether I am sure that it is me who is rolled around, although that is something I do not want to happen. The question does not apply, because we are again referring to an event involving a particular person and purport to ask whether it could involve another person without being another event, which it cannot. Such examples have little to do with psychological ‘I’ statements, which are in focus in Wittgenstein’s discussion. The reason for his focus on psychological cases in The Blue Book is obvious: the subject-object use distinction pertains to his account of the emergence of the idea of a res cogitans; Wittgenstein makes no attempt to give a general account of the contrast, contrary to what legions of commentators have taken him to do. Before turning to Kant’s contrast between the ‘self as subject’ and ‘as object’, I wish to address another question that has occupied the secondary literature. It has been debated whether ‘I’ is a referring expression for Wittgenstein. The conception attributed to him is often more determinate than what can be derived from the relevant texts. A first complexity that should be heeded is that Wittgenstein is not always drawing the same contrast when he talks about two uses of ‘I’ (cf. NFL: 228, 269). The Blue Book distinction is not explicable in terms of substitutivity, as this is the case in the following passage from Moore’s 1930–33 lecture notes (cf. ML: 100f.): Now I said that “I” in “I have” does not refer to a person: & this can be explained as follows. At first sight “I” & “Jones” are arguments to “x has tooth-ache”. With “Wittgenstein has”, “Stevenson has”, I could talk of the possessor varying. But from “Wittgenstein has” I can’t substitute “I” without altering [the] whole business: it is no longer [the] same function just with different arguments. But this doesn’t always apply to “I”: e.g. in “I’ve

13 Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited


got a matchbox”, it is a case of 2 different values of [the] same propositional function; in both cases it is a “possessor”. (MLN: 283, 27 February 1933, paragraphing changed)

In this passage, he says quite explicitly that the ‘I’ does not refer to a person in ‘I have’ statements, which presumably means: it does not refer in psychological ‘I’ statements. Many commentators consider this as the Wittgensteinian view par excellence, not only that of his middleperiod incarnation.6 The passages they standardly invoke to support this attribution are not conclusive, however, as Wittgenstein there either uses bezeichnen or benennen, which are the typical verbs to go with names.7 These verbs cannot always be translated by ‘refer’, which rather corresponds to sich beziehen auf.8 It might be objected that it is trivial to note that ‘I’ is not a name and that therefore Wittgenstein must have something different in mind. However, he does find it worth saying on several occasions that the words ‘I’, ‘this’, ‘here’, and ‘now’ do not function like names.9 Furthermore, he notes that ‘to refer’ can mean different things.10 There is not one relation called ‘reference’ in Wittgenstein, which means that by asserting that he denies that ‘I’ is referential one is making the fairly strong claim that it does not refer in any sense. In a passage from Alice Ambrose’s lecture notes, he even asserts that the ‘I’ in what The Blue Book would call a subject use refers to a body: Although there is a sense in which answering “I” to the question, “Who has toothache?”, makes a reference to a body, even to this body of mine, my answer to the question whether I have toothache is not made by reference to any body. I have no need of a criterion. (AWL: 24, 1932–33; cf. BT: 290; PG: 102) 6 Cf.

Evans 1982: 217f.; Hacker 2019a: 264–270; McDowell 1996: 178f.; Glock & Hacker 1996: 97, 99; Bakhurst 2001: 231–233. 7 Cf. NFL: 258; vW 116: 215, 1936; vW 147: 26r, 1934; PI §410. 8 Wittgenstein himself once translates sich beziehen auf as ‘refer’: ‘ “Aber das Wort ich im Munde einer Person bezieht sich doch auf diese Person[.]” ’ (vW 147: 35v) In The Blue Book, this is rendered as: ‘ “But surely the word ‘I’ in the mouth of a man refers to the man who says it[.]” ’ (BB: 67) 9 Cf. BB: 67f., 108f.; LSD: 302f., 319, 336f.; GWL: 8, 125; PI §38; also section 410 of the Investigations contrasts the use of ‘I’ with that of a name. 10 Cf. vW 116: 182, 1936; vW 120: 116r, 1938; GWL: 125.


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The passage is very much in line with what I take to be the central idea of the subject-object use distinction in The Blue Book: that one need not attend to one’s own body in order to give the answer ‘I have’. This is what I take Wittgenstein to mean when he says in the first Blue Book quotation given above that ‘we don’t use [the ‘I’] because we recognize a particular person by his bodily characteristics’ (BB: 69, my emphasis). It is true that the passage from Ambrose’s notes might seem to be contradicted by Wittgenstein’s oft-quoted assertion: ‘To say, “I have pain” is no more a statement about a particular person than moaning is.’ (BB: 67). In notebook 147, however, the sentence is followed by a gloss: ‘I.e., the particular person does not enter the statement. The person enters the game as first, not as third person.’ (vW 147: 35v, transl. B. R.) I take this to mean that the ‘I’ in ‘I have pain’ cannot be substituted by a pointing gesture and the words ‘this person’. That is, it does not pick out one particular person among others. It remains difficult to get a clear idea of Wittgenstein’s views about the referential properties of ‘I’ and the development of these views (cf. WCL: 115), but as I understand the subject-object use distinction of The Blue Book, it is not concerned with referential error at all. So, we need not pursue the matter any further at this point. ∗

The puzzle of a seemingly ‘doubled self ’ is discussed in several places in Kant. Although his terminology of Ich als Subject and Ich als Object is very similar to Wittgenstein’s distinction, a direct influence is unlikely. Wittgenstein had some knowledge of Kant’s Prolegomena and the first Critique.11 But he was hardly the specialized reader that would have been able to glean the distinction from the Critique, where it is not stated as a terminological contrast (cf. B 155f., 421f.). A specialized reading is sometimes attributed to Wittgenstein on account of a supposed early study of Kant while he was a prisoner of war from late 1918 to August

11 For textual evidence, see TLP

6.36111, Nb: 15 (19 October 1914), PR §108, LWL: 73f., MLN: 320, PG: 404. All of Wittgenstein’s remarks on Kant in the Nachlass are nearly identical to one or another of these passages.

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1919, prompted by fellow-prisoner Ludwig Hänsel (cf. Monk 1991: 158). Schulte corrects the first date to mid-February 1919 and points out that Hänsel never mentions Wittgenstein in his diary in connection with the classes he taught on Kant’s Critique. Since Hänsel mentions Wittgenstein on many fewer occasions, it is unlikely that he should have failed to report the latter’s involvement in the preparations of the classes, or the classes themselves, if it had occurred.12 Wittgenstein seems to have read Kant in the early 1930s in Cambridge (cf. LWL: 73f.), but he developed the ideas surrounding the subject-object use distinction probably independently of any notable influence by other philosophers. As far as I am aware, there are only two passages in which the distinction of the ‘self as subject’ and ‘as object’ is presented as a terminological contrast in Kant. One occurs in his unfinished Prize Essay from the mid1790s: That I am conscious of myself is a thought that already contains a twofold self, the self as subject and the self as object. … [I]t demonstrates … a power so far superior to all sensory intuition, that as ground of the possibility of an understanding it has as its consequence a total separation from the beasts, to whom we have no reason to attribute the power to say ‘I’ to oneself, and looks out upon an infinity of self-made representations and concepts. We are not, however, referring thereby to a dual personality; only the self that thinks and intuits is the person, whereas the self of the object that is intuited by me is, like other objects outside me, the thing. (Forts.: 270)

The person is the self that thinks and intuits, the subject of apperception and of perception. The distinction is evocative of a tripartite division Kant introduces in the Leningrad fragment ‘On Inner Sense’. In this fragment, Kant differentiates (1) pure apperception, from (2-a) apperceptio percipientis, the apperception of the perceiver, and (2-b) apperceptio percepti, of what is perceived (cf. Len. I: 254f.). Apperception in the sense of (1) is centred on the ‘logical’ self, (2-a) on the self of perception, and (2-b) on outer appearances, to which the self as object belongs.

12 Joachim

Schulte, ‘Kantian Themes in Wittgenstein?’, unpublished manuscript.


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The contrast drawn in the other passage where the ‘self as subject’‘self as object’ distinction is terminological does not match the one from the Prize Essay, but it differs in intelligible ways. In that passage, from Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, Kant restricts the ‘self as subject’ to (1), pure apperception (cf. Anthr.: 134 n.). One might argue that this is how ‘self as subject’ must absolutely be understood in view of the cardinal importance of pure apperception in Kant. For present purposes, the question need not be settled. Kant’s basic point is that there are not two entities, one corporeal, one spiritual, but merely two ways of attending to oneself: ‘The human “I” is indeed twofold according to form (manner of representation), but not according to matter (content).’ (Anthr.: 134 n.) Naturally, he does not ask whether one can make a mistake with a given ‘I’ statement, as Wittgenstein does, but it is clear that only if the self is intuited ‘like other objects outside me’ (Forts.: 270), that is, if it is taken as object, such a mistake is imaginable. I have quoted Strawson as crediting Kant with the insight that no criteria for personal identity are required to justify the use of ‘I think suchand-such’, or ‘I am conscious of such-and-such’. Although by itself an insufficient characterization of the role of apperceptive self-consciousness, it is right that Kant notes that ‘the I … is appended to thoughts, without noting the least property of [the subject], or cognizing or knowing anything at all about it’ (A 355). In Wittgenstein, the point is made with a characteristic emphasis on sensation: ‘The “I” is not a sign for the recognition of a person. I can recognize which person raises his arm by looking but not by feeling. When I cry out in pain, I do not recognize who is in pain and express it.’ (vW 147: 33r, transl. B. R.) Since Kant is concerned with the unification of mental undergoings and thoughts over time insofar as they can contribute to human knowledge, the example of pain has little relevance for him. There is another, more momentous, insight by Kant about the ‘I’. The ‘I’, he says, is ‘a wholly empty representation … of which we cannot even say that it is a concept, but only that it is a mere consciousness accompanying all concepts’ (A 346/B 404). This is repeated in the Prolegomena, where he says that ‘the I is not a concept … at all, but only a designation [Bezeichnung] of the object of inner sense insofar as we do not further

13 Use as Subject and Use as Object of ‘I’ Revisited


cognize it through any predicate’ (Prol.: 334). The ‘I’ has no content on its own; it only serves to introduce any content into thinking. I have already quoted Wittgenstein as saying that the subject use of ‘I’ ‘creates the illusion that we use this word to refer to something bodiless, which, however, has its seat in our body’ (BB: 69). The same idea is expressed with great clarity in Kant’s ‘Observation on the sum of the pure doctrine of the soul’: For in that which we call the soul, everything is in continual flux, and it has nothing abiding, except perhaps (if one insists) the I, which is simple only because this representation has no content, and hence no manifold, on account of which it seems to represent a simple object, or better put, it seems to designate [bezeichnen] one. (A 381f., cf. B 407)

It is the ubiquity, simplicity, and lack of distinguishing marks of the representation ‘I’ that prompts the hypostatization of an entity that is simple, identical, and persistent. This account of the emergence of the idea of a res cogitans agrees in outline with Wittgenstein’s; both criticize its emergence as a hypostatization induced by a representation, or a word, that is, by itself, empty of content. There are also differences between their respective accounts. For Kant, the illusion leads to the misinterpretation of the transcendental as transcendent. There is much sense, for him, in the nonsense of the res cogitans. The ‘I’ is indicative of a transcendental function in human understanding. But even taken as transcendent, the thinking thing has a role to play; as an ens rationis, a ‘thought-entity’ or ‘thing of reason’, it provides guidance for the systematization of knowledge about the self.13 For Wittgenstein, there is no deeper systematicity to discover by seeing through the illusion. All that is to be won is a better understanding of the connections of our concepts and our own propensities to get them wrong. What we get to know better is not an immutable framework of human cognition in general; they are conditions of our inquiries in a more mundane and contingent sense (cf. chapter 3).

13 See

A 292/B 348, A 681–684/B 709–712, Op. post. II: 26

14 Idealism/Solipsism in the Investigations

The problem of idealism and solipsism is taken up again in the Investigations and associated manuscripts from the late 1930s. Only a few sections of the Investigations deal with idealism and solipsism at some length; these will be referred to as ‘the “visual room” passage’ (cf. PI §398–402). Wittgenstein mentions both idealism and solipsism in the second paragraph of remark 402. As he does not use any of these terms in the other four remarks, I shall talk indiscriminately of ‘idealism/solipsism’ in this chapter. The first drafts of the passage date from the academic year 1937–38.1 This material is particularly helpful and will be invoked at different points of the discussion. In the second part of this chapter, I turn to a claim that Peter Hacker has made for the ‘visual room’ passage. In his article ‘Kant’s Transcendental Deduction – A Wittgensteinian Critique’, Hacker argues that the visual room can be viewed as a fundamental challenge to Kant’s notion of transcendental self-consciousness, or apperception. I shall only be concerned with those

1 Hacker provides a useful list of the correlations between §398–411 and the manuscript volumes Wittgenstein used in this period, ‘Vol. XII’ (= vW 116) and ‘Vol. XVI’ (= vW 120) in Hacker 2019b: 247.

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points in Hacker’s article that help to bring out what I take to be central to apperceptive self-consciousness, in particular as one of them has a bearing on the interpretation of Kant’s Refutation. I quote the first paragraph of the ‘visual room’ passage in full: “But when I imagine something, or even actually see objects, I have got something which my neighbour has not.” – I understand you. You want to look about you and say: “At any rate only I have got THIS.” – What are these words for? They serve no purpose. – May one not add: “There is here no question of a ‘seeing’ – and therefore none of a ‘having’ – nor of a subject, nor therefore of ‘I’ either”? Might I not ask: In what sense have you got what you are talking about and saying that only you have got it? Do you possess it? You do not even see it. Must you not really say that no one has got it? And this too is clear: if as a matter of logic you exclude other people’s having something, it loses its sense to say that you have it. (PI §398a)

The term ‘visual room’ is only introduced in the second paragraph for what the interlocutor means here when he is represented as saying: ‘At any rate only I have got THIS.’ What the visual room is can be preliminarily explained as the whole contemporary visual show of someone who is looking around him- or herself in a room.2 One might wonder whether there is any significance to the fact that the interlocutor is in a room, rather than in the woods or in the fields.3 To this, it seems natural to answer that no particular experiential content matters in Wittgenstein’s discussion of solipsism in The Blue Book, and so it is unlikely that a specific content will matter here (cf. chapter 12). Although it is true that no particular content will matter, two features of the visual room will have a role in Wittgenstein’s discussion. First, a room is a possible item of possession; it makes sense to ask who owns it. This prepares the stage for the question of whether the visual room has an owner. Second, a room is a clearly defined part of space; it makes sense to ask how it relates to other parts of space and to space itself. This prepares the stage for the question of


borrow the phrase ‘whole contemporary visual show’ from Pears 1988: 323. a draft version of the second paragraph, Wittgenstein considers adding ‘visual landscape’ but decides to cross it out (cf. vW 120: 32v, 3 December 1937).

3 In

14 Idealism/Solipsism in the Investigations


how the visual room relates to visual space as such. This question will not be raised independently but only mediately through the first question, of whether the visual room admits of an owner. It is worth noting that the interlocutor is not the solipsist. The interlocutor is someone who falls into contradiction because he is chunking together disparate forms of expression without noticing. At the end of the quoted paragraph, Wittgenstein says that ‘if as a matter of logic you exclude other people’s having something, it loses its sense to say that you have it’ (PI §398a). Here is one way in which this can be spelled out. Let us suppose that the interlocutor wishes to say that another person cannot have what is presently experienced by him, no matter what it is. If this is what he wishes to say, then the only thing that specifies what experience he means is that it is currently had by him. If this is so, he is referring to an episode of having an experience. There is nothing wrong with referring to experiential episodes in this way. Episodes of having an experience can be counted as particulars. An episode of experiencing something is different from an episode of experiencing the same thing at another time, and also different from another person’s episode of experiencing the same thing. Experiential episodes are individuated by reference to a person and the relatively uninterrupted continuation of the state in question. What is not possible is to treat them at the same time as something that can be had. An experiential episode is a ‘having’ of an experience, and even the interlocutor himself cannot ‘have’ a having.4 In other words, by talking of experiences in this way, the question ‘Who has it?’ is already settled, and so one cannot proceed by treating what is in question as a possible item of possession or attribution. I proceed with the second paragraph, from which I omit some lines at the beginning: I think one can say: you are talking (if, for example, you are sitting in a room) of the ‘visual room’. That which has no owner is the ‘visual room’. I can as little own it as I can walk about it, or look at it, or point at it. In


adopt this phrase from Malcolm 1967: 142, 151 and Cavell 1979: 461f.


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so far as it cannot belong to anyone else, it doesn’t belong to me either. Or again, in so far as I want to apply the same form of expression to it as to the material room in which I sit, it doesn’t belong to me. Its description need not mention an owner. Indeed, it need not have an owner. But then the visual room cannot have an owner. “For” – one might say – “it has no master [Herrn] outside it, and none inside it either.” (PI §398b)

Insofar as the visual room ‘cannot belong to anyone else, it doesn’t belong to me either’, which may indeed suggest an idea like the one sketched in the last paragraph. The visual room is not a particular to which the subject could stand in a perceptual relation. The only particular in sight is the temporary having of the visual perception of the room by the subject; in this perception subject and object are, as it were, conflated. In the last sentence, Wittgenstein says that the visual room ‘has no master outside it, and none inside it either’. This sounds as if he were quoting, or halfquoting, from another source. A room is not commonly said to have a master, and the German word Herr can also mean God. Only the second part of the sentence is clear: insofar as the person is ‘in’, or part of, the visual room, it cannot be said to ‘have’ it. The visual person is not a possible owner. The point is stated more fully in the following Nachlass passage: So you have this image [Vorstellung] – but the image is not object of a subject. One can also say: the body before your eyes is object & your sense subject. The image, in contrast, is not object: one cannot say of the image that it is seen, nor that it is before a subject, for it borders on nothing, is not part of a space. I am standing before this stove but not before the image of this stove. My visual body may stand before the visual stove – but my visual body cannot see. That’s why we want to say  have the impression : here there is no subject – & therefore no object either. (vW 120: 45r–v, 9 December 1938, transl. B. R.; cf. BT: 508)

What I take Wittgenstein to be saying here is that the image is too close to the subject for it to stand in a relationship of something that is known. In this respect, the image is like a sensation. This is why one might prefer an impersonal description of experience:

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What we call the image of a robin is not a picture. “I see” is wrongly applied when applied to the image – but not when applied to the picture. This is why some have suggested that one should say not “I think” but “it thinks”. (LSD: 365, 1 June 1936)

As reported by G. E. Moore, Wittgenstein sympathized with this suggestion, originally made by Lichtenberg (cf. ML: 100f.).5 In his summary, Moore links this point to ‘the eye of the visual field’ (cf. ML: 100f.). Although not backed by his immediate lecture notes, this association makes perfect sense (cf. MLN: 281). When the solipsist rejects ‘I see the visual room’ in favour of ‘There is a visual-room experience’, he is reacting to a genuine peculiarity of personal experience, that the visual room is not object for a subject. The solipsist sees something the realist does not see, and this is what Wittgenstein sympathizes with. In the same manuscript volume from which the last quotation is taken, Wittgenstein writes: ‘How do we manage to do it, to see the ‘visual room’;6 I mean that which is a world & has no subject outside it  belongs to no subject ?’ (vW 120: 48v, transl. B. R.; cf. vW 120: 48v–49r). That the visual room is a ‘world’ means that it is not a part of visual space as the physical room is part of physical space. Visual space as a whole is present in the visual room. This suggests an answer to the question of why the visual room cannot have an external owner. It is because visual space does not border on physical space; it is itself a totality: One could also say: surely the owner of the visual room has to be of the same nature as it; but he isn’t inside it, and there is no outside. (PI §399)

Any owner could only be ‘of the same nature’ as the visual room itself, which means: visual, but whatever is visual is not the owner. The visual room has no owner outside it either, because there is no ‘outside’ of visual space. Visual space and physical space are not things that coexist; they 5 There is no explicit verbal evidence for Wittgenstein’s sympathy, but it is suggested by the way the

quotation is invoked in numerous manuscript passages: vW 108: 9, 14 December 1929; vW 110: 58, 10 February 1930; vW 115: 110, 1933–34, vW 157a: 19v, 1932–34; vW 150: 43, 1935–56; NFL: 226. 6 As the context of the passage shows, Wittgenstein is not inconsistent, when he says that we see the visual room since what he means is seeing-as.


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are mutually exclusive conceptions of, or ways of looking at, things in the world. In the next two remarks, Wittgenstein addresses the ‘ontological status’ of the visual room, as one might call it. The first remark consists of one sentence: The visual room seemed like a discovery, as it were; but what its discoverer really found was a new way of speaking, a new comparison, and, one could even say, a new experience. (PI §400)

To say that the discoverer of the visual room found a new way of speaking may suggest that the visual room encapsulates a new form of expression. This would connect with the familiar point that the solipsist is pleading for a new notation, known from Wittgenstein’s earlier writings (cf., e.g. BB: 59, 65f.). However, ‘a new way of speaking’ rather suggests something like a new style. This might come closer to what Wittgenstein means by ‘a new comparison’ and ‘a new experience’, which is the most mysterious of the three clues that he gives. In the next remark, Wittgenstein moves away from the idea that the discoverer of the visual room is thereby introducing a new notation. He says that what he found is more akin to ‘a new way of painting …, a new metre, or a new kind of song’ (PI §401). The emphasis is here taken away from ‘a new way of speaking’ or a ‘grammatical movement’, which connects to the idea of a new notation; the emphasis is shifted to a new way of viewing things. The discovery made by the solipsist is like an aesthetic discovery, or a discovery in art, the creation of a new genre. This is what distinguishes the present account from that of the early 1930s, with its emphasis on a new notation. One adopts a new form, or style, of expression, not because there is a corresponding object, different from the material room, which our physical-object language does not permit us to describe properly. It is the other way around: one sees a new object, because one adopts the new form of expression. It is here, as he says in his discussion of aspect-seeing, that we ‘see it as we interpret it’ (PPF §116 = PI II: 193h–i). This brings us to the last remark from the ‘visual room’ passage, which I shall only comment on partly. The remark is not obviously continuous

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with the foregoing, as its key terms, Vorstellung and Vorstellungswelt, are not commonly associated with perception in modern German. In Wittgenstein, however, the second word bears this connection, as is noted by the translators, Hacker and Schulte (cf. PI: 256). Wittgenstein’s use of Vorstellungswelt is modeled on the Schopenhauerian Welt als Vorstellung, ‘world as representation’, which is clear from other occurrences of the word in the Nachlass.7 Since Schopenhauer’s conception of the world as appearance is Kantian in inspiration, it might have been the occurrence of Vorstellungswelt in the passage that inspired Hacker to think of the ‘visual room’ as a challenge to Kant. The Hacker-Schulte translation underlines the continuity with the remarks discussed before: “It’s true that I say ‘I now have such-and-such a visual image [Vorstellung]’, but the words ‘I have’ are merely a sign for others; the visual world [Vorstellungswelt] is described completely by the description of the visual image.” – You mean: the words “I have” are like “Attention please!” You’re inclined to say that it should really have been expressed differently. Perhaps simply by making a sign with one’s hand and then giving a description. – When as in this case, one disapproves of the expressions of ordinary language (which, after all, do their duty), we have got a picture in our heads which conflicts with the picture of our ordinary way of speaking. At the same time, we’re tempted to say that our way of speaking does not describe the facts as they really are. (PI §402a)

There are earlier passages where Wittgenstein says ‘that whatever the word “I” means to you, to the other man it shows  draws his attention to  a human body, and is of no value otherwise’ (NFL: 228; cf. 269, LSD: 302f.). In the above remark, however, Wittgenstein shrugs this off as an ‘Attention please!’ doctrine. Apparently, he had grown critical of this view when he drafted the passage. In a remark from 1937–38, he writes that ‘I have’ is idling in a complaint (Klage) of pain, but that nevertheless the complaint can say that I am complaining (cf. vW 116: 175f.). In a later manuscript, he suggests that the expression of a sensation is similar to a cry but nevertheless ‘does the service’ of a description of how things are with 7 Cf.

vW 108: 48, 28 December 1930; BT: 429, vW 116: 213, 1937–38; WWV I, §1 and §9.


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me (PPF §82 = PI II: 189b). As I understand these passages, Wittgenstein distances himself from both a purely expressivist view of utterances and from the idea that the ‘I’ in an utterance of pain is a mere signal for others. ∗

I now wish to turn to the claim Hacker has made, that the ‘visual room’ passage presents a fundamental challenge to Kant’s conception of transcendental self-consciousness. This is related to another claim: ‘Kant confuses a fictitious form of self-consciousness with the ability to say what one perceives and that one perceives it – and, occasionally, to hedge one’s bets.’ (Hacker 2012: 22) For the moment, I ignore the second part, ‘to hedge one’s bets’. Whoever knows how things are can say how they are; this is a general trait of propositional knowledge. When our own sensibility is in question, we can tell people, often effortlessly, how things are with us. It is tempting to conclude from this that there must be a capacity of knowing one’s own mind by which we become aware how things are with us. The ability to say how things are with us is made secondary relative to a prior capacity of knowing our own minds. This capacity is what, apparently, must be supposed to explain the possibility of the manifest ability to say how we feel. The problem now takes the form of finding out what exactly this capacity is. Hacker thinks that Kant’s conception of transcendental apperception is motivated by such a line of thought. The basic idea of this criticism derives from Wittgenstein: The language game [of ‘pain’] only begins with saying that one is in pain, not with knowing it. The language game begins, as it were, with a description to which no described object corresponds. (vW 120: 67r, 13 February 1938; cf. RPP I §851, LW I §811) So, you know that you have the same thing he has? But how do you know that? You say it – but you don’t know it. (vW 120: 119v, 4 March 1938, transl. B. R.)

The point is not, of course, that pain is necessarily accompanied by ignorance. It is that one cannot apply ‘I know’ to ‘I am in pain’ in the way one is tempted to (cf. chapter 18). That would be similar to saying

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that I know that I greet you, when I do, where there is no question of knowledge or ignorance. The second part of Hacker’s statement, ‘to hedge one’s bets’, refers to the possibility of prefixing operators like ‘it seems to me that’ to experiential propositions. As has already been noted here, Hacker places Kant firmly in a Cartesian tradition. To substantiate this philosophical affiliation, Hacker invokes two passages, one of which I have already quoted (cf. A 353, chapter 12). Both passages are closely related, so that it will suffice to discuss only the other: Now I cannot have the least representation of a thinking being through an external experience, but only through self-consciousness. Thus such objects are nothing further than the transference of this consciousness of mine to other things, which can be represented as thinking beings only in this way. (A 347/B 405)

Hacker comments: ‘Kant held that the possibility of conceiving of experience as one’s own was logically independent of the possibility of other-ascription of experience. For he held that experiences are ascribable to others on the basis of analogy with one’s own case.’ (Hacker 2012: 12) Hacker concludes that Kant maintains that inner states are epistemically private. This conclusion relies on the disjunctive claim that either ‘such concepts are … determined by reference to constitutive behavioural grounds’, or ‘must be determined in inner sense … by private ostensive definition’ (Hacker 2012: 12). The same passage is commented on by Alva Noë with an identical conclusion (cf. Noë 1991: 275f.). Both authors fail to mention that Kant deals with a special, restricted, notion of the subject in the quoted passage. Kant deals with the thinking subject, the subject in a purely intellectual sense, which he sometimes calls ‘the soul’. The examination of this concept belongs to the domain of pure reason, not to that of the understanding which operates under the conditions of sensibility: [T]he judgement … I think … serves only to introduce all thinking as belonging to consciousness. Meanwhile, however pure from the empirical (from impressions of sense) it may be, it still serves to distinguish two kinds


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of objects through the nature of our power of representation. I, as thinking, am an object of inner sense, and am called “soul”. That which is an object of outer sense is called “body.” (A 341f./B 399f.)

To speak of the soul as ‘an object of inner sense’ may be misleading, as it precisely is nothing like a substance. The ‘soul’ is the subject insofar as it is thought, which means that it is nothing persistent: ‘The soul in transcendental apperception is substantia noumenon; consequently no persistence of it in time, which can only attach to objects in space.’ (Ak. XVIII: 420f., R 6001, 1776–1789, transl. B. R.) The distinction between the empirical person and the subject as a ‘thinking being’ cannot be ignored when a possible commitment to a private language in Kant is in question. Kant does not say in the passage quoted by Noë and Hacker that one cannot have a representation of the empirical person other than on the basis of one’s own conscious experience. Only this would support Noë’s allegation: ‘Kant … like the private linguist, seems to believe that knowledge of other minds … is indirect, mediated by analogical inference, and thus, unlike knowledge of the self …, fallible.’ (Noë 1991: 276) But as Kant says in his logic lectures: ‘Induction and analogy are … not inferences of reason, but only logical presumptions, or even empirical inferences[.]’ (JL: 133, §84) They belong to the power of judgement. To go by analogical inferences in the domain of pure reason, to which the discussion of the soul belongs, would be a glaring philosophical mistake, also by Kant’s standards. I do not question the force of Hacker’s and Noë’s general line of criticism. One cannot know what it is that one wishes to understand if projecting oneself onto a particular sub-class of self-moving objects is the only approach one can adopt. Lacking a general concept of what a person is, one would have nothing to go by in order to conceive ‘a person other than oneself ’. What I find unsatisfactory about Hacker’s and Noë’s criticism is the lack of any attempt to understand the motivation underlying Kant’s statement that I can view other ‘things’ as thinking beings only by generalizing from my own case. Kant’s concern is how one can assert ‘that everything that thinks is constituted as the claim of self-consciousness asserts of me’ (A 346/B 404). His answer is that we can ascribe to all thinking beings only what is contained in their

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concept, since ‘we must necessarily ascribe to things a priori all the properties that constitute the conditions under which alone we think them’ (A 346f./B 404f.). In other words, Kant is concerned with the subject sub specie intellectualis. The analogy in analytic philosophy of what is in question is self-consciousness as – to use Anscombe’s phrase – ‘something manifested by the use of ‘I’ ’ (Anscombe 1975: 50 = 145). To imagine a subject, thus understood, is to imagine oneself to play the same role as an ‘I’-sayer, and thus to put oneself in the place of that someone. Another arrow in Hacker’s quiver is that ‘Kant confuses a fictitious form of self-consciousness with the ability to say what one perceives and that one perceives it’ (Hacker 2012: 22).8 Let us see whether it hits the target. Hacker focuses on the synchronic dimension of apperceptive selfconsciousness, that is, on the possibility of actually accompanying a given sensible undergoing with ‘I think’, or ‘I am conscious’. In Kant, the emphasis is on the diachronic dimension. The model of Kantian apperception is not that of switching on an inner lamp to see what is going on in me, but rather that of stringing different-coloured beads on a thread, where the beads stand for different kinds of representations and the activity of stringing to transcendental apperception. Apperceptive selfconsciousness is essentially connective, and thus requires a manifold of representations (cf. B 132). It is a consciousness of the one activity whereby I add a representation to the other (cf. B 133).9 Hacker’s criticism does not depend on the dubious attribution to Kant that he would construe transcendental apperception after the perceptual model: [I]t was no part of Kant’s tale to construe either pure apperception or the empirical apperception of inner sense as perceiving that one perceives. But – according to Kant – “I think” must be capable of accompanying all my representations. For only when it does do they amount to what he calls “perceptions” (representations with consciousness). (Hacker 2012: 23; cf. Hacker 2013: 38)


relied on this idea in chapter 9. adopt this phrase from Carl Christian Erhard Schmid, ‘[das] Bewußtseyn der Einen Handlung, wodurch ich eine Vorstellung zu der anderen hinzusetze’ ( Schmid 1798: 69).



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The principle quoted here, that the ‘I think’ must be able to accompany all my representations (B 131), is Hacker’s justification for raising the problem of the synchronic dimension of transcendental apperception. Hacker thinks that consciousness is added to a perception by the apperceptive ‘I think’, to the effect that a perception could not enter consciousness in the first place without the help of apperceptive self-consciousness (cf. Hacker 2012: 17). But this is not very plausible. Apperceptive selfconsciousness is intellectual. If a perception is too faint, thinking whatever you like won’t make it conscious, and if it is overwhelmingly intense, it makes no sense to suppose that it could nevertheless be ‘unconscious’. I skip the exegetical question as to whether this could be Kant’s view. Hacker proceeds with a quotation of the first two paragraphs of section 398 from the ‘visual room’ passage, which, he thinks, ‘can be viewed as a challenge to the whole Kantian conception’ (Hacker 2012: 23). Since we are familiar with the passage by now, I directly proceed to his comment: Kant and Wittgenstein agree that the visual room could contain no owner – that nothing in one’s perceptual experience could warrant its ascription to a subject. … But Kant thinks that the visual room must be owned (the ownership condition of transcendental and empirical self-consciousness). For any sensible experience to be mine, I must be able to conceive of it formally as mine. For any series of sensible experiences to be mine, I must be able to conceive of them as belonging to a persistent subject of experience – to my “transcendental self ” so conceived (the formal persistence condition). To be conscious of my experiences as mine is to know that I am having those experiences – for consciousness is a form of cognition (the subjective cognitive condition). (Hacker 2012: 24)

It is possible to disagree with this reconstruction on various points. The main question for me, however, is what must I assume about Kant’s argument in order for such a reconstruction to make sense. The only way I am able to make sense of it is by assuming that Kant takes as his starting point the visual room – presumably, because his argument is supposed to be directed against First-Meditation scepticism – and then tries to reason his way out of it. I agree with Hacker that if this were to

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be Kant’s approach, he would never make his way out of the visual and into the real room. Hacker’s criticism of transcendental apperception is an attempt to create a dilemma for the applicability of ‘I think’ or ‘I am conscious’ to certain present-tense statements (cf. Hacker 2012: 29). As has been said, he focuses on the synchronic dimension of transcendental apperception: [T]he Kantian “I think that …” does not amount to an objective perception – a cognition. For it is supposed to be common to both “subjective” and “objective” perception, and therefore does not guarantee that the representation it accompanies is an objective representation. (Hacker 2012: 29f.)

Hacker thinks that nothing can meet the condition of having to be common to both. He formulates a linguistic test for Kant’s principle that the ‘I think must be able to accompany all my representations’. This test consists in attaching the ‘I think’ or ‘I am conscious’ to experiential present-tense propositions (‘I see that things are thus-and-so’) and to ‘seems’ propositions (‘It sensibly seems to me that things are thus-andso’). It would be wrong to reject the idea of such a test as irrelevant, as Kant does accept an expressibility condition for the objectivity of thought (cf. chapter 4). Accordingly, if it is true that the ‘I think’ must be able to accompany all my representations, then it must also be possible, in each case, to express this consciousness in language. From the general principle, however, nothing follows about the concrete form in which this ought to happen. It does not follow, for example, that it must be expressed in a single sentence. Hacker takes only a very limited number of linguistic expressions into account, with a special focus on ‘seems’ talk, which is largely irrelevant in the first Critique. In this respect, Hacker’s line of criticism is open to question. First, however, what does it consist in? Hacker begins with the observation that if the apperceptive ‘I think’ or ‘I am conscious’ must be able to accompany all my representations, it must also be possible to accompany how things sensibly seem to me in a particular moment. He argues that a statement of the form ‘I am conscious that it visually seems to me that things are thus-and-so’, if it means anything at all, reduces to ‘It visually seems to me that things are


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thus-and-so’. Accordingly, the one representation that purportedly must be able to accompany all my representations is ‘vacuous’ and thus can be omitted, and thus it is not true that it must be able to accompany all my representations (cf. Hacker 2012: 27). It might be objected that the fact that ‘I am conscious’ can be omitted is consistent with the possibility that it may already be implied in ‘It visually seems to me’, and so can, but need not, be added. Not everything that is logically implied by an empirical proposition has a function in communication, and so the vacuity of the addition of ‘I am conscious’ cannot count decisively against it. Kant need not argue that ‘I think’ must add something new to ‘It visually seems to me that things are thus-and-so’. Hacker thinks that this would reduce the ‘I think’ to ‘It seems to me’, but that is so only on the further assumption that apperception is present-tense consciousness of one’s own mental states. It is not clear to me how it could be ascertained that ‘It visually seems to me that things are thus-and-so’ involves apperceptive self-consciousness and not merely empirical consciousness that ‘by itself [is] dispersed and without relation to the identity of the subject’ (B 133). There might be no straightforward linguistic test for the presence of apperceptive self-consciousness that is applicable to isolated statements. Hacker also mentions the example of being in pain, for which Kant understandably shows little interest (cf. Hacker 2012: 24–26, 32). I shall nevertheless take this example to spell out what I think is valuable in Hacker’s criticism. It is tautological to say that if I am in pain, I am conscious that I am in pain; to say this does not add anything to ‘I am in pain’. If we assume that even momentary pain involves apperception, ‘I am conscious that I am in pain now’ becomes an expression of apperceptive self-consciousness, whenever it is uttered or thought by someone, even when the meaning of ‘now’ is shifting every moment. This is not meant to show that it is absurd to say that ‘I am conscious that I am in pain now’. It is a strange and useless utterance but not a contradiction. My claim is only that this conception of momentary consciousness does not correspond to Kant’s core idea, and that if we suppose that it does involve apperceptive self-consciousness, things blur entirely out of focus. We are left with no means to decide and too much room to assume, which is always a bad sign.

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The following would be a healthier view. I find no fault with Hacker’s substitution of ‘I think’ by ‘I am conscious of ’, so long as apperception is not reduced to mere phenomenal consciousness. The object of the apperceptive ‘I am conscious’ is not a momentary, simple seeming, but a temporally extended manifold consisting of objective or subjective representations. Accordingly, ‘I am conscious of being in pain now’ is not an example of apperceptive self-consciousness. Instead, examples like the following should be treated as paradigmatic: ‘I am conscious of the fact that it first seemed to me that there was a crack in the wall, and then that the crack was only painted, but now I see that the crack is partly real and partly painted’; ‘I am conscious of having first seen just dots on a white sheet of paper and then that they are six, arranged in a pentagon with one in the middle’; or ‘I am conscious of my headache’s having built up gradually and now lasting for more than an hour.’ In all these cases it is possible to be mistaken about, forget, or pay little attention to these things; and in all these cases it is possible to replace ‘I am conscious’ with ‘I know’ (in some cases only with grammatical changes). It is just as fundamental that I am the one about whom such a narrative can be false than that I am the one about whom it can be true. Should an inconsistency arise, I have to amend my narrative. I cannot insist that that is the way I remember things. The closer we move towards momentary consciousness, the less clear it becomes whether we can still talk of apperceptive self-consciousness. If this view is accepted in broad outline, together with the view that transcendental apperception is a necessary condition for empirical selfconsciousness of one’s own existence in time, it follows that we also must reject the indubitability approach to the first premise of the Refutation of Idealism, which construes empirical self-consciousness as momentary (cf. chapter 9). This is what Hacker’s criticism helps to bring out. In anticipation, I wish to concede that the present account of apperceptive self-consciousness is, at the most, only initially satisfactory. It is not radical enough to allow Kant to do everything that he wants to do with it, as it involves empirical descriptions of the objects to be connected. It might be suggested that it can be made satisfactory by replacing them with more basic descriptions, ones of ‘perceptions’, but this idea needs to be considered later (cf. chapter 17).

15 On Certainty and Metaphysical Doubt

This chapter offers a first discussion of a distinctive part of Wittgenstein’s post-Tractarian philosophy that may involve an element of transcendentalism. This element is not a matter of transcendental arguments, but one concerning the special status of things that stand fast for us. To call this status ‘transcendental’ will transpire to be in no way novel, but continuous with extant critical work on transcendental arguments (cf. chapter 19). Although I have referred to Kant’s Refutation of Idealism as to a ‘more modest’ transcendental argument than is commonly assumed, and thus made a positive use of the idea of modesty, I do not think that modesty is the title to adopt for the transcendental residue in On Certainty – no more than ‘humility’ is with regard to transcendental idealism. Both of these ideas remain attached to a conception of transcendence in whose light, or shadow, our relation to the world continues to be seen. It is a conception from which both Kant and Wittgenstein distance themselves. It won’t be before the last chapter of this study, however, that the idea hinted at here will be developed. In this chapter, central stage is accorded to the problem of scepticism and to what can be extracted from On Certainty that bears on it.

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_15



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On Certainty, written between autumn 1949 and 27 April 1951, is a publication from Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. It is a collection of largely unrevised remarks, which have been numbered by the editors. On Certainty is a difficult text, very much work in progress, that offers only sparse checkpoints for confirming possible interpretations. Different readings, unsurprisingly, diverge to an even larger degree than is the case with Wittgenstein’s works that are genuine books. I skip the relatively wellknown facts about the context in which these notes were written as well as their earlier anticipations.1 As I have already noted, there is a general thematic division in Wittgenstein between idealism and solipsism, on the one hand, and scepticism, on the other. I have earlier quoted or referenced some passages in the introduction to this part for substantiation. In On Certainty, things are different. The idealist is introduced as a figure who views himself as raising a doubt behind practical doubt (cf. OC §19), and this is explicitly referred to as ‘the scepticism of the idealist’ (OC §37). The linkage between ‘idealism’ and sceptical doubt may derive from Moore’s papers ‘Defence of Common Sense’ and ‘Proof of an External World’, although neither scepticism nor idealism is explicitly mentioned in either of them. In his earlier paper, ‘Defence of Common Sense’, Moore gives a list of things he knows ‘with certainty’ to be true (Moore 1925: 107). He refers to this list as ‘(1)’. He then goes on to say – under the heading ‘(2)’ – that he also knows ‘with certainty’ that very many human beings have known about themselves such things as have been listed in (1), namely that they were born at some time in the past, that their bodies have existed continuously ever since, and so on (cf. OC §84, §288). I wish to underline three salient features of these truisms.2 First, they can be formulated in the first-person plural, since it is a matter of course for anyone, or almost anyone, to know them. Second, ‘we do not know how we know them, i.e., we do not know what the evidence was’, as Moore emphasizes (Moore 1925: 118). It is true that everybody has been told his 1 See PO: 376–387, 394–399. For an informed discussion of the Malcolm-Moore context, see Baldwin 2011: 551–556. The Whewell’s Court Lectures have recently added to the corpus of early discussions of the respective topics in Wittgenstein (cf. WCL: 26, 29, 57–62, 233–236). 2 For a fuller discussion, see McGinn 1989: 106–116.

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own date of birth from a very early age, but that is not the evidence for believing that one was born at a certain time in the past. I may investigate when I was born, if for some reason that is uncertain, but I would not investigate whether it happened at a certain time in the past. It is only because this stands fast for me that I could investigate when I was born. The third feature to be underlined is that any claim that is not compatible with these truisms would normally be rejected as false without further ado. This is why Moore can say about the sceptical views alluded to: ‘All such views, incompatible with some or all propositions in (1) are quite certainly false.’ (Moore 1925: 114) The reason that he gives is that he is more certain about the truth of these propositions than about any reason a philosopher could give him to doubt them (cf. Moore 1925: 115). In ‘Proof of an External World’, Moore is rather vague about whether his target is external world scepticism or idealism, though he does mention Kant and Descartes. Moore is critical about Kant’s view that there can only be one proof of the existence of things outside us and that Kant’s Refutation of Idealism could be that proof (cf. Moore 1939: 147). However, as Moore’s ‘Reply to my Critics’ shows, his own proof does not have the same target as Kant’s Refutation: I have sometimes distinguished between two different propositions, each of which has been made by philosophers, namely [A] the proposition “There are no material things” and [B] the proposition “Nobody knows for certain that there are any material things.” And in my latest published writing, my British Academy lecture called “Proof of an External World,” … I implied with regard to the first of these propositions that it could be proved to be false in such a way as this …. But with regard to the second of those two propositions, which has, I think, been far more commonly asserted than the first, I do not think I have ever implied that it could be proved to be false in any such simple way[.] (Moore 1942: 668)

The second ellipsis marks the place where Moore gives an outline of his famous argument. He starts from the premise ‘Here is one hand’ (gesturing) and ‘Here is another’ (gesturing), from which he concludes that there exist two hands, and thus at least two things outside us (cf. Moore 1939: 165f.). What he intends to disprove is (A), ‘There are no material things’, which


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contains no epistemic terms at all (cf. Moore 1942: 668). This means that Moore misidentifies the target of Kant’s Refutation. It is the central claim of dogmatic, not of problematic, idealism that no material things exist (cf. A 377, A 491/B 519). This misidentification explains why Moore thinks that he can avoid the task of proving that he knows that he has two hands, as he states in the passage towards the end of ‘Proof ’ where he mentions Descartes (cf. Moore 1939: 169). Descartes is commonly taken to have shown that it is possible to doubt the kinds of propositions in Moore’s list. I have already mentioned the now common way of presenting this sceptical challenge (in chapter 8): if I know, for instance, that there is a hand here, I know that I am not now hallucinating. Conditionals of this kind are the basis of the sceptic’s modus tollens.3 The sceptic argues that I have no reason to favour my present belief about how things are to a scenario that is experientially indistinguishable, such as hallucinating that there is a hand before me. Since it is possible to rationally doubt in this way any of the propositions on Moore’s list, it seems to follow that a claim such as Moore’s that he knows all these things is unfounded. All he can say is that he believes them. Although the Cartesian sceptic invokes the possibility, not the actuality, of rational doubt, the logic of his argument definitely makes contact with our present situation and with the kinds of propositions in Moore’s lists. Wittgenstein agrees that the propositions in Moore’s list have a special status. They are treated as ‘grammatical’ propositions: If “I know etc.” is conceived as a grammatical proposition, of course the “I” cannot be important. And it properly means “There is no such thing as a doubt in this case” or “The expression ‘I do not know’ makes no sense in this case”. And of course it follows from this that “I know” makes no sense either. (OC §58) “I know” is here a logical insight. Only realism can’t be proved by means of it. (OC §59)

3 See

Stroud 1984a: 12, 25–31. A weaker conditional is sufficient to derive an equally devastating conclusion (cf. Pritchard 2005: 47f.).

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I take this to suggest that if ‘I know that I have two hands’ is a grammatical proposition, this can only mean that in ordinary contexts it is uniformly treated as known, or as something that ‘stands fast for us’ (OC §125). He compares this kind of proposition to an axiom of a calculus, rather than to a rule for the use of its symbols (cf. OC §142). He says: ‘The truth of certain empirical propositions belongs to our frame of reference’ (OC §83). This I would like to read as: that the truth-values of certain factstating propositions are uniformly set to ‘true’ is part of our system (cf. McGinn 1989: 142). As a consequence, one cannot assure somebody that one knows, or that one knows now, that ‘I have two hands’. This kind of proposition cannot be used ‘temporally’, as Wittgenstein says in the remark preceding the quoted ones (cf. OC §57). There is an air of paradox here: on the one hand, Moorean propositions cannot be entered as claims under ordinary circumstances, although they are, as it were, as true as possible;4 on the other, they are entered in philosophical discussions in peculiar ways with peculiar intentions. Cavell has noted a connection between Moorean propositions and sceptical doubt that I think is needed here. He refers to the kind of unmarked situations in which the assertion of a Moorean proposition would be void as ‘non-claim contexts’ (Cavell 1979: 218). He contends that the traditional philosopher and, following his example, the sceptic, can only engage in their inquiries by imagining a claim that in fact nobody makes. This is what Cavell refers to as the ‘claim interpretation’: It has been wondered whether the “doubt” invoked in the Method of Doubt is real doubt, or whether it is not merely feigned … doubt …. The claim interpretation would show that the philosopher’s “methodological doubt” is peculiar, but not in any of the ways it has been, so far as I am aware, said to be peculiar. Its peculiarity is a function of the peculiarity of the philosopher’s original claim. Since the investigation turns upon a claim imagined to be

4 If a form of expression is true, it must have sense. Noting the oddity in saying that something is ‘true

but senseless’, one is easily led to the conclusion that meaning must come in levels, first, the level of the proposition itself and, second, that of its proper use in context (cf. Conant 1998: 226–230). As James Conant notes (cf. Conant 1998: 240f.), this is not Wittgenstein’s view (cf., e.g. RPP I: §488). What Wittgenstein says about propositions that stand fast for us must be accounted for in a way compatible with his views on meaning. This task won’t be attempted here.


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entered (a claim which must be entered and which cannot be entered), the investigation will proceed through a doubt which can only be imagined. … The special peculiarity of the philosopher’s doubt is derivative from the special peculiarity of the philosopher’s claim, not the other way around[.] (Cavell 1979: 230)

As exemplified in Descartes’ First Meditation, the traditional philosopher, Cavell says, will invariably begin with a Moorean proposition, e.g. ‘I am here, sitting by the fire, wearing a winter dressing-gow’ (AT VII: 18), and not with a genuine claim like ‘There is a goldfinch in the garden’ or ‘I have two hands’, said in a situation where that is an actual question (cf. OC §23). That the traditional philosopher has to imagine a claim is a result of conflicting requirements. Whenever a statement such as ‘I have two hands’ is entered in a context where this is appropriate, it represents a genuine claim, but not one that would allow us to raise the question of knowledge as such. If, on the other hand, ‘There is a table over there’ appears to be a best case for knowing something, it cannot be entered as a claim. Only about Moorean propositions, conceived as ‘claims’, does it seem plausible to say that if we cannot know them, we cannot know anything at all (cf. Cavell 1979: 145). This is the reason, Cavell suggests, why the traditional philosopher has to imagine a corresponding claim to be made – not in communication, as this happens in J. L. Austin, but in soliloquy.5 This should not be summarized by saying that a Moorean proposition cannot be entered in communication at all, but that it cannot be entered as a claim. It can be entered by inviting others to suppose, or imagine, something to be other than we believe they are. It is in this mode that the corresponding ‘claim’ is considered in the philosopher’s study or in a lecture room. In the quoted passage, Cavell also suggests that the peculiarity of metaphysical doubt ‘is derivative from’ the peculiarity of the ‘claims’ under consideration. It is not clear to me where he means to elaborate on this contention. What is clear is that Cavell thinks that the traditional philosopher is led in his choice of examples by the conflicting requirements mentioned in the last paragraph. I therefore think that 5 See

Cavell 1979: 218, 220, 225; also 201–203; Austin 1979b: 182.

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the following passage can be used to add determination to Cavell’s contention, although it occurs earlier in the text: Ask … in the relevant frame of mind, or tone of voice (the stage directions for which are emblematized by, as well as anything else, the meaning of reflecting “that I am here, seated by the fire, wearing a dressing gown, holding this paper in my hands, and other things of this nature”) “What do I (actually) know about what – if anything really – exists?”; following this by asking, “How, for example, do I know that there is a ———– here?”; and I claim that you will find that you will always pick a generic object to fill the blank, never an object like a goldfinch; a table, yes; a Louis XV escritoire, no. (Cavell 1979: 144)

The blank will always be filled with an object whose identification requires no special sensibility, no special training, but just what everybody knows who knows the language: a table, a tree, a hand, or another ‘generic object’, as Cavell calls it (cf. Cavell 1979: 52–56). A question like ‘How, for example, do I know that there is a table here?’ is only seemingly particular. It does not matter which physical object is referred to. Any physical object will do, which means that the question is only a way to ask how we ever know that there is a physical object. One’s present situation, e.g. of being seated by the fire, is only relevant insofar as it is of a certain general kind, namely completely unmarked and normal. Although doubt is cast on a particular certainty, there is nothing in the situation one could appeal to, such as a distinguishing feature of an object. This doubt can be cast only by invoking a more comprehensive situation which, if actual, would undermine the reliability of my present contact with the things around me as a whole. Accordingly, I must imagine things from the standpoint of an outsider relative to my actual situation. It is in some such way that I take the peculiarity of metaphysical doubt to ‘derive’ from the peculiarity of the original claim. This is markedly different from an ordinary challenge to an ordinary knowledge claim. Let us consider an example. X sees a tiny animal in a bathroom which he takes to be a scorpion. He later tells Y about it, explaining that the animal had a pair of grasping claws. Y asks X whether it also had a tail. X is unable to remember whether it had one. He learns


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that there are spiders with similar claws as scorpions but no tails. So, he admits that it may not have been a scorpion after all. The challenge does not consist in saying that it could not possibly have been a scorpion, but is directed against X’s reason for believing that it was a scorpion. The object of what X claimed to know was not sufficiently determined by the feature appealed to. Still, X could be right. It may have been a scorpion, but he cannot claim to know it. This is not our reaction to a sceptical challenge. In spite of the apparently flawless logic of the sceptical argument, no one would feel obliged to concede: ‘So, I do not really know that here is a hand.’ One’s certainty that there is a hand here entails the proposition that one is not now hallucinating, or in similar distress. This is in turn connected to other things that stand fast for us, with which these propositions form a system. But one’s certainty that there is a hand here is not based on having excluded the possibility of illusion, nor do we appeal to the coherence of our system of beliefs. The propositions that I know that here is a hand and that I know that I am not hallucinating are logically connected, but do not relate to each other as claim and justification. We are just as certain that we are not now hallucinating as we are certain that there is a hand. This is an explanation of why we react differently to the sceptical challenge, not, of course, an answer to it. On Certainty has often been searched for such an ‘answer’. The following passage has been invoked in the literature with such a purpose in view, though what the proper way to do this might be is not evident. Wittgenstein describes someone who is really worried by a sceptical hypothesis, or rather he describes how such a worry would fail to become unambiguously expressed: Doubting has certain characteristic manifestations, but they are only characteristic of it in particular circumstances. If someone said that he doubted the existence of his hands, kept looking at them from all sides, tried to make sure it wasn’t ‘all done by mirrors’, etc., we should not be sure whether we ought to call that doubting. We might describe his way of behaving as like the behaviour of doubt, but his game would not be ours. (OC §255; cf. OC §257)

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If radical doubt were to turn into an actual attitude and ceased to be imagined doubt, it would become confounded with attitudes and mental states that have little to do with what we understand doubt to be. There is no way in which ‘actual doubt’ about the existence of one’s own hands, one’s own body, or the whole world could unambiguously manifest itself in practice. This is not the same as to say that metaphysical doubt, or a general suspension of judgement, is unliveable, which suggests that the impediment is a practical one (cf. McGinn 1989: 114f.). What I take Wittgenstein to suggest is rather that the supposed unliveability of metaphysical doubt is really, as I should like to say, non-representability outside the philosopher’s study. In this respect, his view is similar to that of Margaret Wilson, who rejects the assumption that sceptical doubt about the existence of the physical world has a logical implication for action (cf. Wilson 1978: 46f.). This is not to say that general ‘doubts’ about, for example, one’s most basic mathematical skills induced by sceptical arguments – supposing that they can be induced in that way – won’t have an effect on behaviour. Of any description of such a behaviour I would expect a tendency towards representing the corresponding mental state as transitional, as something occurring between periods of ordinary behaviour. I would equally expect it to represent the person as at the same time agitated or perturbed. That is, I would expect the description to match the physiognomy of what is commonly called a ‘fit’, something people endure who are not (entirely) sane. But if this is so, the corresponding behaviour is not unambiguously one of doubt. Rather, just as a Moorean proposition has no clear equivalent in the form of an actual knowledge claim, there is no clear equivalent of metaphysical doubt in the form of an actual human attitude. This does not show, of course, that the sceptic’s scenario cannot become actual. It would be fallacious to draw such a conclusion from perplexities about expressing metaphysical doubt. Other commentators have argued that On Certainty gives us something more than this. It gives us a distinct type of anti-sceptical transcendental argument. The thought is that Moorean propositions are presuppositions of the practice of inquiry, which cannot be doubted without giving up this practice altogether (cf. Wright 2004: 39). There is indeed a remark


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where Wittgenstein explicitly refers to a subset of Moorean propositions as ‘methodological propositions’ (methodologische Sätze) (OC §318). Appealing to this feature as a solution to the sceptic requires its separation from pure dogmatism. If we react differently to the sceptic’s challenge because to accept it would go against a presupposition of our languagegame, then going against it may still be what we should do if we are to be fully consistent. What has to be shown is that the presupposition is more primitive than any dogmatism of opinion. What I have in mind is well illustrated in the following set of short remarks: “If my memory deceives me here it can deceive me everywhere.” If I don’t know that, how do I know if my words mean what I believe they mean? (OC §506) “If this deceives me, what does ‘deceive’ mean anymore?” (OC §507) What can I rely on? (OC §508) I really want to say that a language-game is only possible if one trusts something (I did not say “can trust something”). (OC §509)

The first remark sounds like a version of the sceptic’s ‘If I cannot be sure of that, I cannot be sure of anything’. The second remark says that if this is so, the certainty about whether I remember the meaning of words correctly can also be questioned (cf. OC §126). This ‘conclusion’ is then directed against the initial statement. Supposing that uncertainty has reached a pitch as high as this, we have no resources left even to give sense to the notion of a ‘deception’. The apparent possibility of a deception, however, was the initial reason for the uncertainty; and so the reasoning unhinges itself. The calculated oddity of these sections lies in the pretension that I could actually draw this conclusion myself, as if relying or not relying on my memory could be a real alternative for me – or as if I were the person I am and at the same time were a detached outsider. I find it rather obvious that the passage, though it is presented in the first person, is not meant to show how someone could argue in actuality. It is meant to show what radical doubt would become if it were to be actual: it would turn into something quite different, something more akin to insanity. To the

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extent in which this is not an entirely serious argument, though it shows something serious, it cannot count as a ‘transcendental argument’. Nor is it a way of saying that scepticism is self-contradictory, as Kant would have it. In Kant’s logic lectures, the sceptical philosopher makes two kinds of appearances. On the one hand, he is associated with Kant’s sceptical method (cf. chapter 5). In this capacity, the sceptic is an ally against dogmatism. On the other hand, he is associated with an extreme form of scepticism: Skepticism is a dismissal of all instruction of reason, and it contradicts itself. It treats everything as illusion, and nonetheless it distinguishes illusion from truth, because it warns us not to accept anything as truth …. It can be refuted by itself, then. (VL: 885, 1780–82; cf. HL: 375f., PL: 557)

The argument of this passage can be stated very succinctly: if everything is an illusion, it is also an illusion that everything is an illusion. The sceptical method, in contrast, aims at certainty, and the attitude that goes with it is the only respectable ‘scepticism’ for Kant (cf. A 424/B 541). Neither of these conceptions relate instructively to the doubt of the First Meditation, nor is there a connection to the argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances in the Sixth. As scepticism is construed in these lectures, it requires no elaborate refutation. This is consistent with the view defended here that Kant’s Refutation is not directed against FirstMeditation scepticism. Descartes’ meditator, too, relies on a particular set of beliefs and principles that his procedure requires, such as rules of inference, the accuracy of his own memory, and possibly also normative judgements (cf. Williams 2013: 36–38). This is particularly obvious where he argues that even the most elementary mathematical propositions are, in some sense, doubtful. The reason the meditator gives is that if we are unable to exclude the possibility that our nature may be of a kind that causes us to err even in what seems most obvious, we do not even know that two plus three equals five (cf. AT VII: 21). It is worthwhile to state the corresponding reasoning explicitly:


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1. If I am justified in believing now that ‘2 + 3 = 5’ is true, I am justified in believing that I have no epistemically deficient nature that constantly causes me to err in my calculations, 2. I cannot justify my belief that I have no epistemically deficient nature of the kind adumbrated; 3. therefore, I am not now justified in believing that ‘2 + 3 = 5’ is true. If ‘2 + 3 = 5’ can be fed into the pattern, one might ask, why not also propositions of logic? Logical certainty is not essentially different from mathematical certainty. Assuming, therefore, that propositions of logic can be fed into the pattern, why not also ‘If p, then q, non-q; therefore, non-p’, by which the reasoning would unhinge itself? This effect is not solely a matter of what kind of substitutions are allowed. If I really were to become uncertain whether 2 + 3 is 5, I would hardly rest assured of the cogency of my reasoning from (1) and (2) to (3). In the chapter on Descartes, I have mentioned an interpretation that is capable of justifying a constraint to exclude these substitutions (cf. chapter 8). According to this view, the meditator of the early stages is not yet consciously aware of the logical common notions or the metaphysical common notions (cf. Hill 2012: 57f.). This interpretation, as I have already noted, is not compatible with viewing metaphysical doubt as actual doubt. For it is only on account of a certain mindset and his unawareness of certain notions, we are told, that the meditator can doubt whether 2 + 3 is 5, while the reader who projects him- or herself into the place of the meditator has no reason to think that he, or she, is unaware of them. If, on the other hand, the argument given above really were to induce an uncertainty over the most basic mathematical propositions, this would not remain confined in our minds to just one type of certainties, as in an argument put on paper. Our mind is not partitioned in a way that would allow us to feed mathematical propositions into the pattern, while keeping it functioning. The upshot of the present discussion can be summarized accordingly: if substitution into the pattern shown above is (taken to be) unrestricted, this leads to the kind of ‘unhinging’ effects seen in Wittgenstein’s parody of a sceptical reasoning quoted above; if it is (taken to be) restricted, metaphysical doubt can only be rendered consistent if it is construed as

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doubt of an imagined subject – a subject for which the opposite of being certain of things that stand fast for us is an attitude of sceptical doubt, rather than a state of mental confusion. These considerations do present something of an answer to at least certain kinds of sceptical arguments. It is not mere epistemic dogmatism that stands in the way of drawing the conclusion in actual fact that we imagine the subject of metaphysical doubt to draw in the type of case discussed above. These considerations do not apply to sceptical scenarios that are designed to cast doubt on perceptual beliefs. One might think in particular of Descartes’ famous argument that there are no secure ‘indicators’ (indicia) that would generally allow us to distinguish veridical experiences from illusory ones (cf. AT VII: 19). Although I agree with the general point, often made in the literature, that nothing in On Certainty suggests a general answer to the sceptic, I do not think that the idea of ‘indicators’ can be invoked unproblematically after what has been said, in particular by Cavell. We do not understand the idea of ‘indicators’ just for the reality of things well enough to understand what our practice is supposedly lacking (cf. Cavell 1979: 135–137, 237f.). The sceptic has to secure that his argument from the lack of ‘indicators’ is more substantial than saying that our practice needs a ‘wooden iron’ to be well-founded, but that since there is no ‘wooden iron’, our practice is not well-founded.6 The point is not that our epistemic practice with experiential propositions cannot depend on the possibility of generally excluding experiential illusions, but rather that the idea of something that would still be human experience and have such a thing as its basis has not been made intelligible. It would have to be made clear that it is something we can lack, something whose presence would render our practice well-grounded. It is the sceptic’s burden to show that his idea of a general experiential criterion for the existence of things is intelligible, or whatever he thinks would ground our practice of making perceptual judgements. ∗ 6 This

is what Schopenhauer says about Kant’s conception of the will as the source of moral obligation, that it is a hölzernes Eisen, a contradiction in terms (cf. WWV I: 321, in §53 of Book IV).


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In the remainder of this chapter, I wish to look at Wittgenstein’s discussion of ‘There are physical objects’, the Moorean proposition that is at the centre of the quarrel between realists and idealists. ‘Physical object’ is a formal concept according to Wittgenstein; I shall later argue that this is also true of the category of causality (cf. chapter 16). Wittgenstein’s discussion is not very detailed, and it is difficult to guess at how he might have spelled it out further. Here is what he says: “A is a physical object” is a piece of instruction which we give only to someone who doesn’t yet understand either what “A” means, or what “physical object” means. Thus it is instruction about the use of words, and “physical object” is a logical concept. (Like colour, quantity, …) And that is why no such proposition as: “There are physical objects” can be formulated. Yet we encounter such unsucessful shots at every turn. (OC §36) But is it an adequate answer to the scepticism of the idealist, or the assurances of the realist, to say that “There are physical objects” is nonsense? For them after all it is not nonsense. It would, however, be an answer to say: this assertion, or its opposite is a misfiring attempt to express what can’t be expressed like that. And that it does misfire can be shewn[.] (OC §37)

I do not think that any commentator has come to grips with this passage. The phrase ‘no such proposition can be formulated’ cannot be taken to mean, simply, that it cannot be entered as a claim in the same way this cannot be done with other Moorean propositions. ‘There are physical objects’, Wittgenstein says, cannot be formulated, and that because ‘physical object’ is a logical, or formal, concept. It is surprising to find this notion, prominent in his early work, in such a late set of notes as On Certainty. In the Tractatus, the idea of a logical concept is associated with that of a variable. According to what he says in the Tractatus, it would be wrong to think of a logical concept as of a concept word, or predicate (cf. TLP 4.126–1272). The question is whether there is an understanding of ‘formal concept’ in Wittgenstein that is independent of the ideas that there should be only one complete analysis of propositions and that the signs in terms of which the analysis is given indicate what is ultimately simple in states of affairs (cf. TLP 3.2–251).

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I begin with a passage from the opening summary of Philosophical Remarks. The same claim is made in the main text, but the summary is more quotable: That, in the case of the logical concept (1, ξ, ξ + 1), the existence of its objects is already given with the concept, of itself shows that it determines them. What is fundamental is simply the repetition of an operation. The operation + 1 three times yields and is the number 3. (PR: 25; cf. 177f.)

Wittgenstein says here that a logical concept is not just the variable but the variable together with the operation that goes with it. Given that performing an operation three times is the number three, there is nothing preposterous about saying that the logical concept ‘natural number’ entails the existence of particular numbers. It is difficult to apply this thought to the concept ‘physical object’. The existence of particular physical objects is not something we produce by performing an operation, and though there are physical objects that we produce, such as chairs and tables, this is nothing for which philosophy is needed to understand. There are also two passages in the Big Typescript where Wittgenstein talks of logical concepts; one occurs in a section on ‘Blurred Concepts’ (cf. PG: 114f.): “Proposition” is as general as, for example, “event”. How can we differentiate “an event” from what isn’t one? … Taken as a logical concept, “language” would have to be equivalent to “sentence”, and then it could be a heading for a part of grammar. Could we call something that wasn’t really used, “language”? … (Is language a concept comparable to the concept “centaur” …, which exists even if there never was such a creature?) (Compare to this a game that was never played, a rule that was never followed.) What does a person do who constructs (invents) a new language? According to what principle does he proceed? For this principle is the concept “language”. (BT: 64f.)

Wittgenstein asks here how some very general concepts can be differentiated (abgegrenzt) from one another. As is indicated in a chapter entitled


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‘Colour, Experience, etc., as Formal Concepts’, he means in particular differentiating by giving distinguishing marks (‘durch Bestimmungen … abgrenzen’) (BT: 528). This is what he denies can be done with formal concepts. Elsewhere, he denies as well that they can be grasped simply by attending to their occurrence in our symbolism, as he affirms is possible with logical constants (cf. LWL: 115f.). Formal concepts are seemingly generic notions, like ‘language’, ‘event’, or ‘colour’, which are given determinacy by a multiplicity of specific concepts. A formal concept involves reference to a particular case together with an instruction of how to generate further instances (cf. PR §125). In this respect, it is not so very unlike family-resemblance concepts. Also the concept of language, for example, consists in a method of generating instances and reapplying this procedure to its own results (cf. PI §135). The beginning of the series is determined by an example and the operation is something like ‘and whatever is relevantly similar to it’.7 In an explanation, one would typically give a development of the series up to a certain point and then add ‘and so on’. It is, presumably, in this way that Wittgenstein conceives of the concept ‘physical object’. What the operation would be that corresponds to ‘+ 1’, or ‘and things relevantly similar to it’, in the case of ‘physical object’ is not straightforward. A suggestion would be: ‘and things identifiable in like ways’, that is, by their spatiotemporal location or by their causal role. According to Michael Williams, logical concepts are ‘ways of discriminating’ categories of singular terms (Williams 2013: 70). Williams says that we cannot grasp a blanket term for particular objects, such as ‘physical object’, without having already mastered a broad range of singular terms: ‘This is why no such proposition as “There are physical objects” can be formulated. At most it could mean “We talk about tables, chairs, dogs, cats, etc.”.’ (Williams 2004: 86)8 According to this kind of interpretation,

7 At

least two factors would need elaboration. The first is what ‘relevantly similar’ means, which is likely to require recourse to a notion like our ‘feeling of naturalness’. The second is that the limits of what is relevantly similar may only be determinable by reference to other concepts. Accordingly, what would need elaboration is the extent to which a similarity-based use may be determined, or limited, by the uses of concepts that are not so based. 8 Another interpretation of this kind is Hacker’s (cf. Hacker 1986: 210).

15 On Certainty and Metaphysical Doubt


it is not so much that ‘There are physical objects’ cannot be formulated, but that it can only mean that there are physical-object terms. This, however, has an unpleasant consequence. It implies that ‘Here is one hand’ does not entail ‘There are physical objects’. Following Williams, we are thus saddled with a conclusion that is contrary to the natural view that the one ‘follows directly and obviously’ from the other (Stroud 1984a: 93). At this point, we have to ask why we should suppose that ‘There are physical objects’ cannot be formulated. One might think that this is because ‘physical object’ must be rendered as a variable, according to Wittgenstein: ‘I can’t give any explanation of the variable “proposition”. It is clear that this logical concept, this variable, must belong to the same class as the concept “reality” or “world”.’ (BT: 420) Let us grant that one cannot say that there are physical objects, if ‘physical object’ is understood as an ordinary predicate. This, however, is not sufficient to reject Moore’s inference, as it could alternatively be rendered in a form that analyses ‘physical object’ as a variable, and variables can be bound (cf. chapter 1). The realist’s conclusion would then say something like: ‘There is at least a physical object x such that it is somewhere at some time.’ On the face of it, this is neither nonsensical nor without content (cf. Pritchard 2011: 533f.). It appears to exclude one possible state of affairs, namely, that there is no physical object anywhere at any time. The inference of this conclusion can, of course, be censured as begging the sceptic’s question, as has been done in the literature.9 But the literature has not questioned that the proposition ‘There are physical objects’ can be formulated. If we look for a parallel passage to On Certainty, section 36, we find one in Wittgenstein’s 1946–47 Lectures on Philosophical Psychology. In Peter Geach’s version of the lectures, the passage reads: “Physical objects surround me now” has meaning as opposed to looking at the blue sky. If I say “I am surrounded by men, chairs, pictures” – I can imagine them away. But if a philosopher says “there are physical objects” need it make sense at all? If “f(a)” makes sense, “(x)f(x)” and “(∃)f(x)” need NOT make sense. To say “I am making a false move in chess” makes sense;

9 See

Stroud 1984a: 109–112, 121–123; Wright 1986: 434–438; Wright 2004: 22–31.


B. Ritter

but “nobody ever makes a correct move in chess” – ? (GWL: 51; notation altered)

Disappointingly, Wittgenstein seems to formalize ‘… is a physical object’ as an ordinary predicate, f (x), and not as a variable. This, in any case, is how he was understood by another note-taker (cf. GWL: 177). On the other hand, Wittgenstein might simply have wanted to draw a comparison, for which the wording in Geach’s version leaves room. The point is a familiar one in Wittgenstein: it is not always the case that a proposition with ‘all’ can be stated with sense when the corresponding proposition with ‘some’ can be stated with sense (cf. NFL: 293, PI §345). If taken in this way, the intended analogy between ‘Nobody ever makes a correct move in chess’ and ‘There are (no) physical objects’ seems to raise a concern with the negation: that there might be no physical objects anywhere at any time. What Wittgenstein seems to have in mind is this: since ‘physical object’ is a logical concept and receives determinacy only by the operation it defines with regard to specific concepts, the negation of ‘There are physical objects’ denies what gives ‘physical object’ meaning in the first place. He may want to say that one should not react to the negation with an affirmation of the opposite, but rather react as to the statement ‘There are no colours’. One should ask: ‘What, then, are you saying does not exist?’ A possible objection would be to say that we might be under the illusion that there exist physical objects. In such a scenario, what the realist says would be false, and thus not senseless. I find the textual basis too thin to reach a firm conclusion as to what Wittgenstein’s answer might have been. The following remark from a record of a discussion Desmond Lee had with Wittgenstein in 1930 may provide a hint: If we say of an object O, “This is 3 ft. high”, then the object is part of the symbol. But if we say (∃O).φO then O is not part of the symbol. But the propositional sign is still not complete; it cannot be understood of itself. (LWL: 115)

The sign ‘φ’, I suggest, might be interpreted as ‘has a height’, or ‘is —— high’. Accordingly, the existential proposition may be rendered

15 On Certainty and Metaphysical Doubt


as saying that there is something that has some height or other (cf. chapter 1). If this is how to understand the realist and the idealist, what they say is not exactly nonsensical but ‘cannot be understood by itself ’; it lacks determinacy. To make Wittgenstein’s view in On Certainty, sections 35 to 37, more plausible, this (lack of ) determinacy would have to be understood epistemically, that is, related to ways of finding out about things. As has been remarked earlier, it is entirely unclear how we are supposed to imagine that we could find out that there really are no physical objects, our own bodies included, as any ordinary way of checking is immaterial to the problem (cf. chapter 8). This is the only way I can think of in which Wittgenstein’s claims about ‘There are physical objects’ can be made more plausible. Ordinary talk of the existence of a type of thing is bound up with a determinate idea of what it would look like to find out whether it does or does not exist, while the situation in which we would ‘find out that there are no physical objects’ is entirely indeterminate. As will be seen later, this idea is central to Stroud’s account of the ‘transcendental’ status of a certain type of proposition (cf. chapter 19).

Part IV Limits of Transcendentalism

Introduction I begin Part IV with a detailed examination of Kant’s Second Analogy. I think that this amount of detail is needed to bring out the different conceptions of transcendentalism which are at work in the Critique. I shall emphasize a difference between a use of transcendental conditions as in the Second Analogy, where they are stated for something that is already assumed to be a cognitive achievement, namely, an empirical cognition of an objective change, and where they are stated as conditions of something that precedes empirical knowledge, as principles of a connecting activity from which cognition arises in the first place. The claim made for conditions as principles of synthesis is stronger than the claim made for conditions in the first context. Conditions of synthesis are supposed to actually lead in some way to experience; they are necessary means by which experience, as we know it, is constituted from something less than experience. In the Critique, this ‘something’ is perceptions, the notion of which is crucial and relatively understudied in the context of Kant’s theoretical philosophy. What these ‘perceptions’ require to become experience, whose matter they constitute, is the operation of the categories. The categories, however, are too meagre in content to determine in what way the mind is supposed to synthesize perceptions.


IV Limits of Transcendentalism

What is taken to mediate between the pure categories and the appearances which they are intended to fit are the transcendental schemata. Although the schematism is a highly original doctrine, I think that it fails to achieve what is asked of it. The last stage of the Second Analogy invokes a principle that is of central importance to Kant’s project: ‘The conditions of the possibility of experience in general are at the same time conditions of the possibility of the objects of experience[.] (A 158/B 197) In the Second Analogy, this principle takes the form of a conditional that licenses the transmission of conditions for the conceivability of experience to the objects of that experience themselves. The transmission of these conditions into a context that makes no mention of a subject is commonly taken to be a distinctive mark of Kant’s transcendental idealism. In chapter 17, I examine the question whether there could be an argument in the Critique for the validity of the principle. The main focus, however, will be on the status of Kantian perceptions in the context of the Transcendental Deduction. In the preceding part, I examined the set of problems posed by idealism, solipsism, and scepticism in Wittgenstein’s post-Tractarian writings. A major omission was his discussion of private language, which, according to a remark from the first half of the 1940s, ‘belongs to the problems of idealism and solipsism’ (vW 165: 101f.).1 It has been claimed that Wittgenstein’s private language argument is a refutation of solipsism and possibly idealism too. Conversely, it has been suggested that the private language argument is anticipated in Kant, in particular in the Refutation of Idealism. As against this, I maintain that Wittgenstein’s concerns in the private language discussion are very specific and self-contained in a way that does not connect directly to the philosophical tradition within which Kant worked. Wittgenstein starts with a philosophical idea in order to examine whether it can be articulated within the languagegame format. This is followed through in a series of misfiring attempts which then is interrupted by his noting that, although we seemed to have some understanding of the idea, we cannot attach a clear sense to it. In chapter 18, the private language discussion will be considered on its own

1 Translation

in Hacker 2019b: 17. See also vW 124: 189 (13 April 1944).

IV Limits of Transcendentalism


terms in order to supply an account whose relation to arguments in Kant can be addressed. This happens in the concluding chapter, where no new material is introduced from Kant and Wittgenstein. It offers a review of a selection from the extant literature on their relationship. Here, also, the question whether Wittgenstein is a transcendental idealist will be re-examined – approaching the issue now from the other side, that of transcendental realism. It is here that I propose an answer to the broader question of how post-Tractarian Wittgenstein relates to Kantian transcendentalism, which will be given with a focus on the idea of a transcendental condition and its transformation in Wittgenstein.

16 Kant’s Second Analogy and the Schema of Causality

The Second Analogy – more precisely, the second part of the following reconstruction – will serve as a paradigmatic example of a regressive transcendental argument in the chapters to come. As such, it will be contrasted with the progressive argument of the second part of the Transcendental Deduction (cf. chapter 17). I shall attempt to give as forceful a reconstruction of the Second Analogy as I can. This does not mean that I consider all of its aspects ultimately tenable. I have reservations about the notion of a perception, even as it figures in the reconstruction below. The detailed account and subsequent critique of this central argument in Kant is intended to contribute to a more general moral. It will be suggested that, just as there is a deflationary dynamic inherent in Kant’s idealism, so there is one inherent in Kantian transcendentalism. These are related dynamics. Without synthetic transcendentalism up and running, the regressive approach is threatened to become indistinguishable from a conceptual investigation. If we take these tendencies together and extend the lines to see where they intersect, we will get a point in the vicinity of Wittgensteinianism. Having indicated the outer-most limits of the discussion ahead, I wish to jump into medias res without further preliminaries.

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_16



B. Ritter

The phrasing of the following passage from the Critique of Practical Reason is strikingly parallel to a passage in Hume, which won’t be quoted here (cf. T I.iii.3: 79f.): [A]lthough in the case of things in themselves it is not to be understood and is indeed impossible to see how, if A is posited it should be contradictory not to posit B which is quite different from A (the necessity of the connection between A as cause and B as effect), yet it can very well be thought that as appearances they must necessarily be connected in one experience in a certain way (e.g., with respect to temporal relations) and cannot be separated without contradicting that connection by means of which this experience is possible, in which they are objects and in which alone they are cognizable to us. (KpV: 53)

In this passage, two ideas are emphasized: the idea of contradicting the connection by which experience is made possible and the idea of a unity of experience, which is based on these connections. Kant accepts Hume’s point that the idea of something that begins to be can be separated from the idea of a cause. A contradiction can only occur if both are related to possible experience. This is what the Second Analogy is set to bring out. In the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, the principle of the Second Analogy is formulated as: ‘Everything that happens (begins to be) presupposes something [setzt etwas voraus] which it follows according to a rule.’ (A 189) That is, for every event there is some cause (cf. Beck 1978a: 120). In the second edition, the principle is restated as: ‘All alterations occur in accordance with the law of the connection of cause and effect.’ (B 232) The difference is often considered as merely verbal (cf., e.g. Allison 2004: 246f.). If this is true, one must say that Kant’s restatement is not for the better. The principle in A states a necessary causal condition: if something happens, then it must have some cause. This for-every-event-some-cause principle is difficult to match with the relevant formulations in the proof of the Second Analogy. It should further be noted that ‘the appearances must not be subsumed under the categories per se, but only under their schemata’ (A 180f./B 223). The schema of causality, however, is formulated as ‘the real upon which, whenever it is posited, something else always follows’, which states a

16 Kant’s Second Analogy and the Schema of Causality


sufficient causal condition (A 144/B 183). The more generous formulation of the principle in B with ‘in accordance with’ can be reconciled with this conception, while the formulation in A cannot. If this is accepted, it is possible to view Kant’s restatement of the principle in the second edition as an improvement. Nothing more is required to explain the revision than a heightened concern on Kant’s part with the logical form of the principle. The by now most famous objection that has been raised against the Second Analogy is Strawson’s non-sequitur charge (cf. Strawson 1966: 28). This objection consists in imputing to Kant an equivocation of conceptual with causal necessity along with fallaciously shifting the modal operator from the order of perceptions to the order of perceived events. Strawson construes Kant’s argument as a hypothetical syllogism, which is indicative of the role he attributes to the Second Analogy (cf. Strawson 1966: 137f.). It is the argument pattern Kant uses in the transcendental deduction. In reaction to Strawson, Lewis White Beck offered a reconstruction of the Second Analogy as a regressive transcendental argument, which is now recognized as a major point of reference for any interpretation of the argument (cf. Beck 1978b: 147– 153). It is an argument that assumes that we (in some cases) have empirical cognition of objective events and goes on to specify the conditions on which that is possible. Since Strawson misrepresents the form of Kant’s argument, the charge of committing a modal operator shift fallacy is off target, at least as a charge against what will be reconstructed here as the second part of the Second Analogy. The other point made by Strawson, however, helps to bring out an essential feature of Kant’s notion of a ‘perception’, which often goes unnoticed. I quote from Strawson’s preliminaries of his reconstruction of Kant’s proof: That any experience conceived of as a perception of some objective item is thereby conceived of as causally dependent upon (an effect of ) the existence of that item is a truth contained in the very concept of senseperception of objects whose existence is independent of our awareness of them. (Strawson 1966: 136, my emphasis)


B. Ritter

Calling something ‘a perception of [AB]’, as this is ordinarily understood, and ‘[AB]’ as an objective change in the world, by itself, rules out that the sequence of perceptions could occur in an order different from that of [AB]. If ‘perception’ is understood in the ordinary way, one cannot perceive what is not there. Other than James Van Cleve, I think this is correct; the Second Analogy should not derive anything from this feature of the ordinary concept (cf. Van Cleve 1973: 82). What Strawson has failed to note is that in Kant’s argument ‘perception’ means something different. What is commonly referred to as ‘perception’ is more accurately rendered in Kantian jargon by ‘empirical intuition’. Kantian perception, in contrast, is what provides the ‘material … for thinking objects of sensible intuition’ (A 374, cf. A 180/B 223). By itself, perception has an object only in a qualified sense: ‘[S]ensation … if it is applied to an object in general without determining it, is called perception.’ (A 374) ‘Without determining it’ is usually interpreted as ‘without determining the object through categories’ (cf. B 207f., B 218f., A 225f./B 273). In short, perception is (approximately) empirical intuition minus form. As a consequence, we cannot unproblematically speak of the ‘perception of a ship’, as Kant does (cf. A 193/B 238). One may say this, if ‘a ship’ is used as an external designation to pick out the respective object, or else ‘perception’ is not used as required by the argument of the Second Analogy. I therefore agree with Kotzin and Baumgärtner when they say: ‘Clearly, it is impossible of giving an example of what an experience would be like without one, or without any, of the transcendental conditions being fulfilled.’ (Kotzin & Bg. 1990: 402) And yet, the notion of perception as it is used in some passages of the Critique involves precisely such an abstraction. If it were to be used as an intentional notion in the Second Analogy, the irreversibility of perceptions upon the perceived objective changes would be built into the very concept of a ‘sense-perception’, as Strawson realized.1 If we take ‘rA ’ and ‘rB ’ as symbols of two qualitatively different perceptions, we can get some understanding of what they stand 1 By

the ‘intentionality’ of perception, I do not mean that the ‘object’ of perception would remain unaffected by the non-existence of the real object (cf. Anscombe 1965: 55–58). I talk of ‘perception’ in the sense in which we say that someone perceives an object only if it is there.

16 Kant’s Second Analogy and the Schema of Causality


for by abstracting from the corresponding empirical intuitions. Calling perceptions themselves ‘irreversible’ is misleading, since the application of ‘reversible’ or ‘irreversible’ cannot be justified by reference to what is internal to perceptions (cf. Allison 2004: 250f.). Even if the order of [rArB] were always to be the same, that would just be a contingent fact: ‘[The subjective sequence of apprehension] alone proves nothing about the connection of the manifold in the object, because it is entirely arbitrary.’ (B 238, cf. B 219) Considered in itself, any succession of perceptions is possible, just like any succession of keys played on a piano. Following Allison, I won’t talk of ‘irreversible’ sequences of perceptions, as Van Cleve and Beck do, but say that the subject has to think of [rA rB ] as following irreversibly upon something else (cf. Van Cleve 1984: 47, Beck 1978b: 148). The first line quoted below from Kant’s proof of the Second Analogy suggests that he is not concerned with the question of whether empirical cognitions of objective changes are ever actual (as Strawson assumed). He is concerned with the question of what makes them possible, given that they are actual. Referring to the objective relation of appearances that are succeeding one another, he writes: Now in order for this to be cognized as determined, the relation between the two states must be thought in such a way that it is thereby necessarily determined which of them must be placed before and which after rather than vice versa. The concept, however, that carries a necessity of synthetic unity with it … is here the concept of the relation of cause and effect, the former of which determines the latter in time, as its consequence, and not as something that could merely precede in the imagination …. Therefore it is only because we subject the sequence of the appearances and thus all alteration to the law of causality that experience itself, i.e., empirical cognition of them, is possible; consequently they themselves, as objects of experience, are possible only in accordance with this law. (B 234)

To state this proof in a more orderly way, I shall be using several abbreviations which derive from Beck. I am using ‘A’ and ‘B’ to symbolize opposite states in an object and square brackets as corresponding to the words ‘the succession of ’. Thus, ‘[AB]’ symbolizes a succession of


B. Ritter

objective states A and B (cf. Beck 1978b: 148f.). I wish to emphasize that in the symbol ‘[AB]’, ‘A’ and ‘B’ do not stand for cause and effect, but for an alteration that is caused (cf. Van Cleve 1984: 49f., Strawson 1966: 138). In other words, ‘[AB]’ symbolizes the effect only, such as two successive positions of a ship moving downstream (cf. A 192/B 237). The sequence of the corresponding perceptions will be written as [rA rB ], using ‘A’ and ‘B’ as indices. My reconstruction will be divided into three parts. The opening move is a piece of disjunctive reasoning characteristic of Kant. This is best represented as starting off from a conditional with a three-pronged disjunction as its consequent. Following Beck, the second part of the proof is reconstructed as a modus ponens. It is textually based on the B proof (B 232–234) while drawing on other passages as well. I react to difficulties raised by Van Cleve and integrate suggestions made by Van Cleve and Allison (cf. Van Cleve 1984: 49–51; Allison 2004: 246–260). In the final part of the proof, Kant concludes that ‘[appearances] as objects of experience, are possible only in accordance with [the] law [of causality].’ (B 234) In the first edition, this step comes much later (cf. A 202/B 247). Only the second edition makes it clear that it belongs to Kant’s basic argument. I shall consider these steps one after the other. As I said, the opening move is a piece of disjunctive reasoning: I.1 In order to cognise [erkennen] [AB] through empirical intuition as an objectively determined relation, I must (a) either perceive time in itself and empirically determine A and B in relation to it, (b) or determine it on the basis of the succession of perceptions in apprehension, (c) or by thinking it according to the schema of causation. I.2 ‘[T]ime cannot be perceived in itself, [nor can A and B] be as it were empirically determined in relation to it.’ (B 233) I.3 ‘[T]hrough the mere perception the objective relation [of A and B] remains undetermined.’ (B 234)

16 Kant’s Second Analogy and the Schema of Causality


I.4 Therefore, in order to cognise [AB] through empirical intuition as an objectively determined relation, I must think of it according to the schema of causality.2 The idea rejected in the first negative premise, (I.2), is similar to the one Wittgenstein expresses in connection with time measurement. A situation in which logs of wood are floating down a river can be used as a simile for time, and we actually do talk like that: ‘We talk about the flow of events, but also about the flow of time – the river on which the logs travel.’ (BB: 108) The erroneous idea of determining A and B in relation to time itself can be expressed in this way: ‘The river flows also when nothing travels on it; time flows also when nothing is experienced. Like points on the surface of the flowing water can be used to determine the position of the logs, points in time can be used to map things occurring in time.’ Kant’s view is that time can only be empirically represented against something that remains permanent, and that permanent things are only available in outer appearance (cf. A 182f./B 224) The second negative premise, (I.3), denies that the objective relation of states in the world can be determined on the basis of the succession of perceptions. To appreciate Kant’s idea, one can imagine oneself standing in a rectangular room at a place from where it is impossible to bring the opposing corners into one perspective. When letting one’s eyes roam from one corner to the other, one will only have succeeding perceptions of the corners. The fact that we experience them as being there ‘at the same time’ cannot be derived from the succession of our perceptions alone.3 I proceed to the second part of the proof, which incorporates conclusion (I.4) as a premise. So far, I have not said what it is to ‘think of [an objective change] according to the schema of causality’. This proposition has greater complexity than I bothered to spell out in the first part of the proof. I shall approach this complexity with the help of

reasoning corresponds to ‘((P → (Q ∨ R ∨ S)) ∧ ¬R ∧ ¬S) → (P → Q)’, which is a tautology. Compare the argument pattern of the Refutation of Idealism in chapter 10. 3 I am assuming here that it makes sense to say that someone ‘perceives’ something that we can pick out as ‘the corners’. It should be remembered that we are still operating with ‘perception’ in the Kantian sense. 2 This


B. Ritter





e1 c2

t1 t2


t1 t2

e2 rA rB Fig. 16.1

rA rB

Event intuition and irreversibility

two illustrations (cf. Figure 16.1). In the illustrations, causal relations are represented vertically, temporal relations horizontally. In the illustration on the left, ‘X’ and ‘Y’ designate an unobserved event, or causal factor, that is represented as being the cause c1 of an observed change from A to B. This change is, in turn, represented as being the cause c2 of two successive perceptions rA and rB , which occur at the same moments as the states A and B, respectively. The fact that ‘A’ and ‘B’ are shown to be horizontally separated from one another does not mean that there is a temporal hiatus between the phases of a change. Rather, ‘A’ and ‘B’ are to be considered as two successive snapshots of a continuous change in the world, and the same applies to the other states, mundane and mental, shown in the illustrations. There are two different relations that, in the proof, will be said to be ‘irreversible’. These are indicated by crossed-out double-arrows in the illustration on the right. If the change from X to Y is thought of as causing the change from A to B, then the latter change is bound to occur in the order ‘First A, then B’, and the same applies to the change from perception rA to perception rB . This type of irreversibility

16 Kant’s Second Analogy and the Schema of Causality


corresponds to the horizontal double-arrows. Now, since this change, from A to B, is caused by the unobserved change, from X to Y, their order also must be represented as irreversible. This type of irreversibility corresponds to the vertical double-arrows. In terms of the symbolism used here, also [[XY][AB]] and [[AB][rA rB ]], respectively, must be thought of as irreversible. The following reconstruction of the second part of the proof opens with the words ‘In order to …, I must …’. That sentence is to be read as a conditional, and the proof as a modus ponens: II.1 In order to cognise [AB] through empirical intuition as an objectively determined relation [‘Damit dieses nun als bestimmt erkannt werde …’ (B 234)], I must (i) perceive [AB] and retain the ordering of perceptions rA and rB as [rA rB ], and think of (ii) A and B as states incompatible to coexist in a substrate,4 (iii) A and B as occurring both irreversibly in the order [AB] and irreversibly upon something else, [XY], in the order [[XY][AB]],5 and (iv) [rA rB ] and [AB] as occurring irreversibly in the order [[AB][rA rB ]].6 II.2 I sometimes cognise [AB] through empirical intuition as an objectively determined relation. II.3 Therefore, I (i) perceive [AB] etc. and think of it according to (ii)– (iv), and thus according to the schema of causality. (Cf. A 195/B 240) 4 Meaning

‘states that cannot be present at the same time in one and the same thing, considered in one and the same respect, without contradiction’. This is a reformulation of Beck’s condition 3-(i), who talks of ‘opposite states of a substance’ (Beck 1978b: 148). 5 The order of first A and then B is determined relative to something else on which it follows necessarily:‘[I]f I perceive that something happens, then the first thing contained in this representation is that something precedes, for it is just in relation to this that the appearance acquires its temporal relation, that, namely, of existing after a preceding time in which it did not. But it can only acquire its determinate temporal position in this relation through something being presupposed in the preceding state on which it always follows, i.e., follows in accordance with a rule[.]’ (A 198/B 243) 6 More precisely: ‘think of [Ar ] and [Br ] as irreversible, while leaving the question of reversibility A B or irreversibility of [AB] open.’ Cf. A 193/B 238.


B. Ritter

On a Beckian reconstruction such as this, which assumes experiential knowledge of an objective change as a premise,7 the crux of the argument is not an eventual fallacy engendered by shifting the application of ‘irreversibly’. It is mandatory that ‘irreversibly’ should be applied to different things. What happens in this part of the proof is that a veridical empirical intuition of an objective event is recovered by causal notions linking the event and its intuition insofar as it is a perception. This linking cannot be done in one stroke. What is said in (II.1) is that an intuition cannot be an intuition of a particular event, if there exists no necessary connection between them. This would be undermined if ‘perception’ in conditions (i), (iii), and (iv) were to be given its everyday meaning. A notion that implies that the ‘perception’ is intentional cannot be allowed on the side of the explanans. In an attempt to elucidate this concept, one might say that perception is considered here as an event in nature, that is, as something caused to happen. This is clearly an understanding of perceptions as something constituted.8 It is now possible to say something more determinate about why appearances ‘cannot be separated [from one another] without contradicting that connection by means of which … experience is possible’, as quoted at the beginning of this chapter (KpV: 53). Let us assume that the perceptions [rA rB ] only happen to occur in the same order as [AB]. If that is the case, the perceptions will make no contribution to the empirical intuition of first A and then B. They won’t be able to promote a belief such as that a ship is moving downstream. We immediately lose our grip on the idea that it is the moving of the ship that is seen. This is the nervus probandi of Kant’s argument. It should be noted that there is, in this respect, no difference to cases where coexisting parts of a scene are seen, as in Kant’s example of scanning a house from the ground to the roof or in the other direction (cf. A 190–193, B 235–238). Seeing a state of affairs and seeing an objective event do not differ in view of condition (iv). It is easy to lose sight of the aim of Kant’s argument. What needs to be shown is not merely that by positing [AB] as irreversible, the 7 Namely

in premise (II.2), which corresponds to premise (5) in Beck 1978b: 148. will be seen later, this is not a possible interpretation of ‘perception’ in the second part of the B Deduction (cf. chapter 17)

8 As

16 Kant’s Second Analogy and the Schema of Causality


order of [rA rB ] will come out as irreversible too (cf. Rosenberg 1998: 173, Allison 2004: 251). The question is not what is required for conceiving of [rA rB ] as irreversible, but what is required for thinking of the corresponding intuition as objective. ‘Irreversibly’ is the key concept in the explanans, while the explanandum is the objectivity of the intuition of events. A sceptic about causation who does us the favour of accepting the objectivity of outer sense while denying the validity of necessary connection would have to account for the objectivity of event intuition. This cannot be done without appeal to something like condition (iv), that my perceptions must be conceived as occurring irreversibly upon what the corresponding intuition is an intuition of. If the sceptic accepts the idea of necessary connection in this case, there is no fundamental reason why he should deny it in others. He could not invalidate the argument by conceding the indispensability of the concepts involved in condition (iv) for thinking about experience, but insist on their ultimately chimerical nature. This is because, per supposition, he maintains that it makes sense to talk of ‘objective experience’. He can only either accept talk of ‘objective experience’ and thus the idea of a necessary connection between perceptions and things in the world, or reject both ideas as equally chimerical. Before proceeding, I wish to note that something other than (iii) may suffice to account for the objectivity of event intuition. Let us take someone’s seeing water flowing in a river as an example. If he is having a perception of both the immobile shore and a particular surface structure A of the water at some time and the same, though altered, structure B after that, this must be thought of as an objective change of the scenery. There is no reason why the change in the river surface should have to be conceived as following irreversibly upon some other causal factor [XY] for one’s intuition of the change to be objective. We may drop this condition and demand instead that [AB] must be seen against an unmoving background, which excludes the possibility that [AB] might be experienced because the subject is scanning the scene, as in Kant’s example of the house. This means that the Second Analogy fails to establish the causal principle in full generality. It shows that event perception must necessarily depend on the intuited event but not that the latter must in turn necessarily depend


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on something else for it to be experienced as objective. One might also say, in fact more accurately, that instead of establishing the positive thesis, the Second Analogy only succeeds in exposing the incoherence of certain ways of going against it. Kant does not rest content with the conclusion that ‘it is only because we subject the sequence of the appearances and thus all alteration to the law of causality that experience itself, i.e., empirical cognition of them, is possible’. He goes on to state that ‘consequently they themselves, as objects of experience, are possible only in accordance with this law’ (B 234). We do not only have to think of experience in accordance with intellectual and sensible conditions; these conditions also have to be valid de re, of the objects themselves as phenomena. I proceed to a more explicit statement of the last stage of the proof: III.1 The conditions according to which alone I am able to think of an object as being knowable through empirical intuition are at the same time conditions of the possibility of the object of experience. III.2 I am able to think of [AB] as being knowable through empirical intuition in accordance with conditions (ii)–(iv) only, and thus according to the schema of causation. III.3 Therefore, [AB] will also be possible as an object of experience in accordance with the conditions (ii)–(iv), and thus to the schema of causality. (B 234, cf. A 202/B 247)

It is only at this stage that Kant invokes the principle of transcendental idealism, which corresponds to the first premise. The effect of the principle, as I understand it, is that any reference to how things must be thought of so as to be capable of appearing to the senses is eliminated from the conclusion. One might call this ‘the disappearing I’. The conclusion is about things as appearances, which, for Kant, are ordinary experiential objects. Apart from the difficulties inherited from the second part of the proof, which I am presently ignoring, the conclusion is as convincing or as unconvincing as the principle. Note that since condition (i) does not refer to how things must be thought of, at least not in the relevant sense of ‘think’, it is no candidate to which to apply principle III.1. This is why it does not appear in this part of the proof.

16 Kant’s Second Analogy and the Schema of Causality


I shall now turn to examine the relation between the category of causality and its transcendental schema. This will be seen to support my contention that the category of causality is a formal concept in Wittgenstein’s sense. The relevance of this question lies in the implication that a formal concept cannot be understood without specific concepts by which it is determined, just as the concept of colour is empty without specific colour concepts, or the concept of number without those for specific numbers. For the category of causality this means that ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ have no meaning independently of empirical concepts. Kant has a hard time accounting for an application of the categories to ‘objects’ of pure sensibility, which are not full-fledged empirical objects, and many commentators have thought this account to be a failure (cf. Allison 2004: 202–204). As far as the category of causality is concerned, it can be shown that the transcendental schema of causality is incapable of mediating between the pure category and what it applies to. The first general explanation of what ‘categories’ are occurs somewhat belatedly in the Critique, towards the end of the chapter where they have been introduced: ‘They are concepts of an object in general, by means of which its intuition [Anschauung] is regarded as determined [bestimmt] with regard to one of the logical functions for judgments.’ (B 128) This says that a category is something by which thought determines the intuition of an object. Kant denies even after the Transcendental Deduction that the pure, unschematized, categories can be defined: [W]e cannot even define [B: not even give a real definition of ] a single one of them [B: i.e., make intelligible the possibility of their object] without immediately descending to conditions of sensibility, thus to the form of the appearances, to which, as their sole objects, they must consequently be limited, since, if one removes this condition, all significance, i.e., relation to the object, disappears, and one cannot grasp through an example what sort of thing is really intended by concepts of that sort. (A 240f./B 300)


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In the first edition, Kant adds the following gloss in a footnote: I mean here the real definition, which … contains in itself a clear mark by means of which the object (definitum) can always be securely cognized, and that makes the concept that is to be explained usable in application. (A 241, n.)

According to this gloss, pure categories cannot be explained in a way that would provide an identifying mark. Yet, without such a mark, Kant says, a category cannot be applied, including the category of causality: From the concept of a cause as a pure category (if I leave out the time in which something follows something else in accordance with a rule), I will not find out anything more than that it is something that allows an inference to the existence of something else; and in that case not only would there be nothing through which cause and effect could be distinguished, but further, since the possibility of drawing this inference also requires conditions about which I would know nothing, the concept would not even have any determination through which to apply to any object. (A 243/B 301)

There is a qualification in parentheses at the beginning of the passage. The qualification suggests that if the time ‘in which something follows something else in accordance with a rule’ is not left out, it will be possible to apply the category to an object in appearance. This is what separates Kant’s view from Wittgenstein’s: The law of causality is not a law but the form of a law. ‘Law of causality’ – that is a general name [ein Gattungsname]. And just as in mechanics, for example, there are ‘minimum-principles’, such as the law of least action, so too in physics there are casual laws, laws of causal form. (TLP 6.32–321) When I had the thought, 16 years ago, that the law of causality was in itself meaningless & that the world could be considered without having it in view, I felt as if a new era had begun. (vW 183: 21, 6 May 1930, transl. B. R.)

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The second quotation is a translation of a passage from Wittgenstein’s Nachlass, which expresses the view that I take to underlie the earlier passage. The law of causality is meaningless without specific causal laws and the terms in which they are formulated. This is what I have quoted Wittgenstein as saying earlier concerning formal concepts: that they do not yield a distinguishing mark and cannot be understood without specific concepts (cf. chapter 15). In the context of his account of the objective validity of the categories, however, Kant has to claim that they can be understood and applied to objects of the productive imagination, which is the basis of all other applications, thanks to the a priori schematism. In the context of the Deduction of the objective validity of the categories, he cannot borrow distinguishing marks from experience (cf. B 152). Let us now consider how the a priori schematism is supposed to supplement the categories’ lack of distinguishing marks. A ‘schema’ is an aspect of our understanding of a concept that manifests itself in knowing what to imagine, or draw, or represent in accordance with it. Our schema of the concept ‘dog’, Kant says, is that of a four-legged animal with a certain general shape. When I make a drawing of a dog from memory, I am operating with my schema of a dog (cf. A 141/B 180). The drawing might be weak, if I am not a good drawer. It may also involve mistakes, but there are mistakes which even a weak drawer would not make. A schema is not a picture but the general method of making one. Confusingly, this is precisely what Kant denies about the schemata of the categories: ‘The schema of a pure concept, on the contrary, is something that can never be brought to an image at all[.]’ (A 142/B 181) Kant’s view seems to be that the schema of a category is a particular way of temporally ordering representations in imagination for which the category provides the rule: The schema of a pure concept of the understanding … is a transcendental product of the imagination, which concerns the determination of the inner sense in general, in accordance with conditions of its form (time) in regard to all representations, insofar as these are to be connected a priori in one concept in accord with the unity of apperception (A 142/B 181).


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The context from which I am quoting now, that of the section following the Transcendental Deduction, is very different in intent and purpose from that of the Analogies of Experience. The idea of a first application of the categories cannot be explained in terms borrowed from ordinary empirical examples. Robert Curtius, whose ‘Schematismuskapitel’ essay still stands out as an essential contribution to the literature on the topic, polemicizes against the view that a transcendental schema could be a ‘mediating representation’ allowing the categories to be applied to appearances (A 138/B 177). A schema is too closely associated to its category to do this. Curtius thinks that a more promising line of interpretation consists in viewing the application not as subsumption but as a synthesis of the imagination (cf. Curtius 1914: 362f.). This idea first emerges in §24 of the Transcendental Deduction and is taken up again in the chapter on the schematism (cf. A 139–142/B 178–181). Imagination, Kant explains in §24, is ‘the faculty for representing an object even without its presence in intuition’. This is how it can be a priori, namely, if and insofar as imagination can ‘determine the form of sense a priori in accordance with the unity of apperception’ (B 151). The form of sense – ‘inner sense’, as he specifies in the first paragraph of §24 – is time (cf. B 150).9 This ‘transcendental synthesis of the imagination’, Kant writes, ‘is an effect of the understanding on sensibility and its first application … to objects of the intuition that is possible for us’ (B 152). The criticism offered in the remainder of this chapter is independent of the way in which this first application is conceived. To anticipate: it will turn out that there is nothing essentially temporal about the schema of causality, contrary to what the corresponding schema judgement suggests. From this, it follows that it cannot be the result of a supposed determination of the form of inner sense through the category of causality. More precisely, insofar as there is one way in which cause and effect are ‘ordered’, this order is not temporal, and insofar as it is temporal, there is not only one way. Although there is a sense in which a ‘cause’ can be

9 The

Guyer-Wood translation does not employ an equivalent of innerer Sinn, ‘inner sense’, at this point.

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said to precede its ‘effect’, it is not one that can give determination to the relevant concept of ‘order’, as it is a posteriori and thus not available at the relevant stage of Kant’s reasoning. To see this, let us recall how Kant explains the schema of causality: The schema of the cause and the causality of a thing in general is the real upon which, whenever it is posited, something else always follows. It therefore consists in the succession of the manifold insofar as it is subject to a rule. (A 144/B 183)

Kant seems to say here that the effect follows invariably upon the cause, as soon as the cause is posited, or, as soon as the cause exists. This corresponds to a sequential conception of causation: cause and effect are ordered in time as ‘first cause, then effect’. This is a natural way to look at causation: when a billiard ball strikes another ball, the other ball certainly moves only after it has been struck. The quotation suggests that Kant maintains a sequential conception of causation, as can also be found in Hume (cf. T I.iii.2, 75f.). Four experiential examples for causation are given in the section on the Second Analogy (cf. A 192/B 237, A 202–204/B 247–249). In view of what has been said, it is surprising that none of them favours a sequential conception of causation: (1) (2) (3) (4)

A ship floating on a river is driven downstream. A heated stove is warming a room. A leaden ball is laid on a pillow and impresses a hollow. Water in an overfilled glass rises above its rim.

Examples such as (2) to (4) illustrate that cause and effect may sometimes arise, or exist, at the same time, contrary to what the statement of the schema of causality suggests. But, also in the first example of the ship, there is no perceivable difference between the movement of the water and the movement of the ship. Someone who wishes to promote a sequential conception of causation is more likely to start with another example. The moment in which a ship casts off from the shore of a river would correspond more closely to the example of the billiard balls. The following


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passage, however, shows that Kant’s conception of the temporal structure of causation is different from the one we have been led to expect: The majority of efficient causes in nature are simultaneous with their effects, and the temporal sequence of the latter is occasioned [my emphasis:] only by the fact that the cause cannot achieve its entire effect in one instant. But in the instant in which the effect first arises, it is always simultaneous with the causality of its cause, since [my emphasis:] if the cause had ceased to be an instant before then the effect would never have arisen. Here one must note that it is the order of time and not its lapse [Ablauf ] that is taken account of; the relation remains even if no time has elapsed. The time between the causality of the cause and its immediate effect can be vanishing (they can therefore be simultaneous), but the temporal relation of the one to the other still remains determinable. (A 203/B 248)

Kant illustrates what he means here with the help of example (3): If I consider a ball that lies on a stuffed pillow and makes a dent in it as a cause, it is simultaneous with its effect. Yet I still distinguish the two by means of the temporal relation of the dynamical connection. For if I lay the ball on the pillow the dent follows its previously smooth shape; but if (for whatever reason) the pillow has a dent, a leaden ball does not follow it. (A 203/B 248f.)

There are many things in this striking passage that invite comment, and I shall take them in turn. First, if it is true that ‘the temporal sequence of [first cause, then effect] is occasioned only by the fact that the cause cannot achieve its entire effect in one instant’, then Kant would have to say that his basic model for the temporal structure of causation is simultaneity. To say that ‘the cause cannot achieve its entire effect in one instant’ suggests that what we tend to take for the effect, distinct from the cause, is really a continuous causation of the effect by its cause. Second, after a reading of the passage, one may see better what the examples (2), (3), and (4) have in common with (1). Given that the physical configuration of the situation is as described in example (4), the indentation of the pillow follows necessarily. Given the weight and form of the leaden ball and the relative disposition of the pillow to resist

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deformation, the situation after the ball has been placed on the pillow is compatible only with one outcome. This is also what Kant says about the first example, that one cannot imagine the ship to move in the opposite direction, if the situation remains otherwise unaltered (cf. A 192/B 237). The movement of the ship is unambiguously determined as soon the configuration of the rest of the physical system is given. Third, Kant allows no temporal gap between cause and effect. He says: ‘if the cause had ceased to be an instant before then [i.e., before touching the pillow] the effect would never have arisen’. This is related to Kant’s conception of space and time as continuous quantities: Space and time are quanta continua, because no part of them can be given except as enclosed between boundaries (points and instants), thus only in such a way that this part is again a space or a time. (A 170/B 211; cf. Entd.: 209)

Given the assumption that there can be no temporal gap between cause and effect, and given a conception of time as continuous, we get a view of causation such as the one expressed in Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Sciences: [I]n no body is the state of rest or motion, or the speed or direction of the latter, changed by impact instantaneously, but only in a certain time, through an infinite series of intermediate states, whose difference from one another is less than that between the first state and the last. (Anfangsgr.: 552)

On a continuous conception of time, there is no ‘next’ moment relative to a given moment in time. Even in the case of the billiard balls, the acceleration of the other ball takes place within a small span of time. Strictly speaking, then, no cause achieves its effect immediately. From this, it follows that cause and effect are not temporally contiguous, as ‘first cause, then effect’, but simultaneous as that which is doing the causing and what is caused – a ‘dynamical connection’ (A 203/B 248) – over a stretch of time.


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The most striking thing about the passage, however, is still to be mentioned. It is, fourth, that Kant’s conception of an ‘order’ is not temporal at all. Any order that could be accounted for in temporal terms, and thus in terms of the forms of sensibility, is an ‘order’ that involves either a lapse or the idea of temporal contiguity. The first is denied by Kant and the second presupposes a ‘particulate’ view of time, which he does not share. According to Kant, time does not consist of indivisible moments, as for Hume (cf. T I.ii.2: 31). This means that the dependence of an effect upon its cause does not imply temporal priority of the cause. It follows that one cannot explain the schema of causality, as Allison does, by saying that ‘to represent a sequence of states of affairs or events in time as exhibiting this dependence relation [i.e. ‘existential dependence’] is simply to think of it as governed by a rule of the form A at t1 then B at t2 ’ (Allison 2004: 224). For if there is a lapse between t1 and t2 , the corresponding events cannot be causally related, and if there is no lapse, they occur at the same time. They could occur one after the other without a lapse if time is conceived as consisting of indivisible moments, only this is not Kant’s view. I said that the relevant conception of an ‘order’ does not imply a determinate temporal order at all. In the passage on the ‘lapse’-‘order’ distinction, the latter is explained in terms of an asymmetrical relation of determination. If the physical situation is specified in a certain way, there is only one outcome that is compatible with these conditions, while, if we start from the specification of the effect, no particular outcome is determined (cf. Huemer & Kovitz 2003: 564). This allows us to account for the difference of cause and effect within a ‘simultaneous’ conception of causation, presupposing a continuous conception of time (cf. Huemer & Kovitz 2003: 565). ‘Simultaneity’ is, of course, a temporal relation, and my saying that no particular temporal order is implied by Kant’s notion of an ‘order’ may be taken to be in conflict with this. It should be clear, however, that ‘simultaneity’ cannot be invoked to explain the relevant sense of ‘order’. The relation of simultaneity is symmetrical. If e is simultaneous to f, f is simultaneous to e, while what is needed is an asymmetrical relation.

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If what has been said is correct, it cannot be the case that ‘an application of the category [of causality] to appearances becomes possible by means of the transcendental time-determination’ supposedly provided by the schema; on the contrary, a connection that is already known to be lawful is required to determine the order of the events involved in causation (A 142/B 181). If the pure category does not provide us with a distinguishing mark which determines what it applies to, and if a transcendental time-determination can be of no help either, it is difficult to see what could provide the determination other than empirical concepts for specific causes and specific effects. As I have already noted, different temporal structures are compatible with causation. I shall elaborate on this claim in the remainder of this chapter. Kant clearly believes that some effects succeed their causes in time. The problem with this is that if there is no time between ‘the causality of the cause’ and the effect, there is nothing that could possibly ‘be vanishing’, as he says. It remains to be seen whether at least most things Kant says can be made consistent with his commitment to a continuous conception of time and a ‘simultaneous’ conception of causation. Jay Rosenberg suggests that Kant must be concerned with causation from two different points of view: from the order of experience and from that of being (cf. Rosenberg 1998: 182). If a match is struck, it takes a moment to fully ignite. If ‘the causality of the cause’ is the application of the force, the causality of the cause is the striking of the match (cf. Rosenberg 1998: 183). We can see that it precedes the full ignition of the match, not as in the majority of cases. Rosenberg suggests that, considered from the order of being, cases such as those of the match or the billiard balls also follow the model of the leaden ball placed on a pillow, where the application of the force and the onset of the effect are simultaneous. What is not satisfactory about Rosenberg’s proposal is that a distinction between different viewpoints looks too much like a distinction between how things seem and how they are. Kant could not say that the temporal order of cause and effect is a useful illusion which permits us to apply the categories to appearances; something we imagine to be the case without its being actually so. This would be irreconcilable with the idea of time as


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a condition of the possibility of experience. A view is needed according to which it is right to say that, in some cases, the effect succeeds the cause. Throughout this discussion, I have been considering the relata of the causal relation as events, as this is the most natural way to make sense of the question of whether cause and effect are simultaneous or successive relative to one another (cf. Brand 1980: 138). ‘Events’, in Kant, are changes of empirical substances (cf. B 233). Events are spatiotemporal individuals whose descriptions are logically independent of one another, given some relevant way of describing them. The relevant kind of description, in the present case, is a physical description (cf. Brand 1980: 142–144). In cases of causation like the billiard example, it is possible to divide the whole event into three subevents. First, there is a phase in which the cue ball is moving towards the object ball; then, there is a small stretch of time where the cue ball strikes the object ball, during which the acceleration of this ball takes place; third, there is a phase after the collision, in which the object ball moves with a certain velocity away from the cue ball. The first subevent can be referred to as the ‘cause’ only in virtue of the second stage. For it is inessential to the first subevent that it should lead up to a collision; it could be prevented in the last moment. The second subevent is the phase where that which causes and that which is caused are simultaneous. It could not be the event it is without the dynamical connection of cause and effect, to use Kant’s apt phrase. The third subevent is the ‘effect’ in virtue of the second stage, just as this is the case with the first subevent. Insofar as it is the event it is, it is independent of the second stage, since many other events could have led to it. The succession in question is clearly a genuine one; it is correct to speak of a temporal lapse (Ablauf ) here. In example (2), of the stove warming a room, in contrast, there is no way of individuating a third subevent succeeding the second; and in example (4), of the water which rises above the rim of a glass, there is no way to do this for a first and a third event. This allows us to reconcile Kant’s talk of a temporal succession with regard to some cases of causation with his commitment to a simultaneous conception of causation. One may indeed say, in some cases, that the cause precedes the effect, if ‘cause’ refers to an event of the same kind as the first subevent in the billiard example and ‘effect’ to the third.

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What should be emphasized is that there will not always be something successive analogous to these subevents to refer to. Thus, it is not in this way that the ‘order’ expressed in the schema of causality can be explained. Insofar as a genuine succession in causation is concerned, it cannot be clear a priori what to imagine at all, as Kant’s four examples help us to realize. It might be said that, as far as temporal relations are concerned, there is a minimal claim that is implied by the schema, namely that the effect will never precede the cause. But ‘effect’ can only mean here a certain type of event, which means that not even this is true. Kant’s formulation does not exclude that it might happen, perhaps under peculiar circumstances, that what is commonly known as the ‘effect’ of a certain ‘cause’ is experienced as preceding the cause. What Kant is saying is that under such circumstances those events will not represent an order.

17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction

As we have seen, the Second Analogy invokes the principle according to which the ‘conditions of the possibility of experience in general are at the same time conditions of the possibility of the objects of experience’ (A 158/B 197). Let us first reflect on what this could mean. In the Second Analogy, the antecedent appeals to the way in which we must think, or conceive, of the experience of objects, and the consequent invokes conditions of the possibility of those objects themselves. On the face of it, this does not look crucially different from saying something as untenable as ‘If I believe that p, then p’. But apart from the not entirely determinate sense of expressions like ‘can be thought’ or ‘conceived as’, it is clearly not in this way that we judge a statement like: ‘What is conceivable is possible’, though ‘conceive’ refers just as much to a subject as ‘believe’ does. There are cases, I take it, in which one would say that something that initially seemed conceivable turns out to be impossible. This, however, will likely have an effect on the way we think it ought to be conceived. We would say that the initial belief that it can be conceived was due to an unclarity about the way in which this is most reasonably done. In cases where there is no such unclarity, we are quite sure that what we can imagine is also possible.

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_17



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It has been noted earlier in this study that ‘I (or we) find this conceivable’ does not admit the same emphasis on the subject as ‘I (or we) find this believable’. ‘Conceivable’ lacks a contrastive use (cf. chapter 3). To say that something is conceivable, or inconceivable, is to make an appeal to everyone’s agreement. It is an objective modal claim, which in many cases is not significantly different from saying that something is possible. There are special circumstances under which possibility and conceivability are allowed to come apart. A case in which one does not consider inconceivability as implying impossibility is when two incompatible theories allow us to make all of the desired predictions only in combination. Their inconsistency can then be regarded as a fundamental ambiguity in what they are about.1 In the absence of a conception that explains how the corresponding objects can have both kinds of apparently incompatible properties, the joint success of the theories and the non-reducibility of one to the other provide a reason to suspend the conclusion that at least one of them must be wrong, or that they must ultimately refer to different things. In this type of case, the distinction allows one to say: ‘Such and such is possible, but we do not (yet) understand how.’ Possibility is then used as a focus imaginarius, an imaginary point, towards which conceivability is allowed to travel. This opens up a gap between possibility and conceivability that Kant would not allow to stand between experience and experiential objects with regard to the categories. His principle that ‘a priori conditions of a possible experience in general are at the same time conditions of the possibility of the objects of experience’ rules out such a gap (A 111). The principle does not assert that the conditions of the possibility of experience match the conditions of the possibility of the objects of experience, but that they are the same. It says that there is only one set of conditions for both. The principle only mentions the conditions, so that one cannot derive the logical form of the conditions from the logical form of the principle. That is, it does not by itself determine whether the conditions themselves are necessary, sufficient, or both. Let us suppose that the principle could be rendered as: ‘If I am able to think of x as experienceable only in accordance 1I

am thinking here of the particle-wave dualism.

17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction


with C, then x itself is possible only in accordance with C’. This invokes the same set of conditions, C, in the antecedent and in the consequent, without implying anything about the logical properties of the conditions. An immediate puzzle about this way of rendering what I am calling the ‘principle of transcendental idealism’ is that it is difficult to see what ‘x’ could stand for, if it is supposed to be something that can either be in accordance with the conditions or not. Apparently, we are talking about conditions for something’s being an object for us, to which there seems to be no genuine alternative. It is difficult to build up any confidence in knowing how to discuss this problem. What seems clear is that Kant considers the principle of transcendental idealism to define a new approach to metaphysics. This is what in the preface to the second edition he heralds as a ‘revolution’, ‘change’ (Veränderung), or ‘transformation’ (Umänderung) in our ways of thinking (cf. B xii–xiii, xix, xxii n.). This ‘transformation’ is characterized as a change in method: Up to now it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to the objects; but all attempts to find out something about them a priori through concepts that would extend our cognition have, on this presupposition, come to nothing. Hence let us once try whether we do not get farther with the problems of metaphysics by assuming that the objects must conform to our cognition, which would agree better with the requested possibility of an a priori cognition of them, which is to establish something about objects before they are given to us. (B xvi)

Kant further differentiates this ‘transformation’ with reference to intuitions as opposed to conceptual representations, which latter are divided into conceptual representations whose objects can be given and those whose objects cannot be given in experience. Kant offers a more explicit formulation of the principle of transcendental idealism in view of the former, when he says that ‘experience is itself a kind of cognition requiring understanding, whose rule I have to presuppose in myself before any object is given to me, [and to this rule] all objects of experience must … necessarily conform’ (B xvii–xviii). That is, it is a rule to which experience and the objects of experience must at the same time conform.


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In the preface, the transformation is expressly introduced as a ‘hypothesis’, but Kant announces that it ‘will be proved … apodictically from the constitution of our representations of space and time and from the elementary concepts of the understanding’ (B xxii). To prove something ‘apodictically’ is to prove it deductively (cf. B 41, A 160/B 199, JL: 66). This is also what the Doctrine of Method says ‘must be the case in matters of pure reason’ (A 789/B 817). Where in the Critique could such a proof be found? Kant mentions not only ‘our representations of space and time’ but also ‘the elementary concepts of the understanding’ (cf. B xxii, n.). Looking beyond the chapter of the Aesthetic, the natural candidate is the Transcendental Deduction. The theme of a ‘transition in our way of thinking’ only appears in the preface to the second edition, which suggests that we should look at the corresponding version of the Deduction. As will be seen, the second part of the B Deduction indeed concludes with a formulation that seems to fit what is searched for. The proposition to be proved is a conditional. From a formal point of view, it can be proved when the consequent has been proved. That is, one could introduce the antecedent as an assumption, give the proof of the consequent, and write the assumption as an antecedent of the proposition that says that ‘x itself is possible only according to C’. However, Kant would first have to prove that C must apply to whatever x stands for, independently of any relation to possible experience, which could not be reconciled with his conception of admissible transcendental proofs (cf. A 783/B 811; chapter 9). Another possibility would be to derive the principle from another conditional, or conditionals, by hypothetical syllogism. This, however, would require that a conditional with the desired property is already available. For if there were to be only conditionals with propositions about how objects have to be thought of and propositions that only state conditions of the possibility of objects, they would not mesh with one another so as to yield the desired conclusion. A third possibility that is sometimes treated as an option in the literature is that it could be inferred in the Deduction as the best explanation of something else (cf. Allais 2011a: 96f.). This would mean that it is ‘inferred’ as the best hypothesis, rather than deductively, which

17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction


Kant would not have accepted as essentially contributing to his argument. Just like induction, a hypothetical ‘inference’ cannot be the sole ground for any conclusion in metaphysics (cf. JL: 84–86, 133; VL: 889). Fourthly, the principle could be supported by its own systematic contribution to a transcendental proof. Since ‘experience’ is the only substantial term that occurs in the principle, it is the only candidate for such a systematic linkage to another concept that is central to Kant’s Critique; as will be seen, this other concept is ‘perception’. This fourth option is the most plausible one. It is not possible to approach the Transcendental Deduction without any preliminaries, though for present purposes they can be allowed to remain brief. The Deduction is concerned with the objective reality of the categories. A category is said to be related to objects of possible experience ‘without having borrowed anything from experience for their representation’, which means that it does not relate to objects by the intermediary of an empirical mark common to all the objects to which it applies (A 86/B 118). Different interpretations are possible of what it means for a concept to possess ‘objective reality’. In §22, Kant says that through the determination of pure intuition ‘we can acquire a priori cognitions of objects (in mathematics), but only as far as their form is concerned’. That is, ‘whether there can be things that must be intuited in this form is left unsettled’. Therefore, ‘all mathematical concepts are not by themselves cognitions, except insofar as one presupposes that there are things that can be presented to us only in accordance with the form of that pure sensible intuition’, and the same holds for the categories (B 147). This suggests that the objective reality of the categories requires the actual existence of some immediately intuitable objects, while other objects will count as real in virtue of a lawful connection to them (cf. B 273/A 225f.). It seems to me misleading to emphasize, as Manfred Baum does, that the objective reality of a concept only requires real possibility (cf. Baum 1986: 23f.). I take ‘real possibility’ to mean the determinability of a corresponding ‘object’ in space and time, without requiring its actual existence. This is something that could not hold generally to the effect that all of our concepts would only have real possibility with none of them having positive instances. I think it is


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plausible to interpret Kant as requiring for the objective reality of the categories the actual existence of a variety of things, some of which must be directly perceivable.2 Whether Kant considers the Deduction to be the only way to prove the objective reality of the categories is a difficult question. It may seem that he does. On the other hand, it would be a difficult position to defend, and he has been interpreted as being more varied in his approach (cf. Guyer 1987: 85–87). The main strategy for establishing the objective reality of the categories consists in, first, showing that they are conditions of the synthetic unity of consciousness through which alone the subject can be conscious of itself as identical; second, showing that they are at the same time the conditions of the possibility of the experience of objects. This conclusion is not to be secured in the face of radical scepticism about objects in space. It is now widely accepted that the conclusion of the Deduction is directed against the empiricist attack on the validity of the categories, especially that of causality. In the second edition, this conclusion is drawn not in one but in two sections, §20 and §26. Dieter Henrich influentially stated a twofold requirement that any satisfactory interpretation of the Deduction should meet. Such an interpretation must show that the two sections pursue the same goal and that both are equally necessary for its completion (cf. Henrich 1969: 642). This is not to say that Henrich would deny that, besides §20 and §26, other sections also bear an argumentative function that is essential to the outcome of the Deduction (cf. Henrich 1989: 39f.). As Henrich argued convincingly, Kant’s notion of a ‘deduction’ has juridical origins (cf. Henrich 1984: 87–92). It cannot be expected that all argumentative steps can be stated deductively, since a ‘deduction’ for Kant is not eo ipso a formal proof. A deduction in the relevant sense is a ‘process through which a possession or a usage is accounted for by explaining its origin, such that the rightfulness of the possession or the usage becomes apparent’ (Henrich 1989: 35). Another point to be heeded is that even the Deduction as a whole is not independent of both the so-called ‘metaphysical deduction’ (in §9 and §10), which teases the

2 Though

even Allison seems to think otherwise (cf. Allison 2004: 88).

17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction


categories out of the logical functions of judgement, and the chapter on the schematism (cf. chapter 16). Lastly, although the demonstrations of the principles of pure understanding cannot be considered as belonging to the Transcendental Deduction, it is only at this stage that the (purported) experience-enabling function of the categories is elaborated in sufficient detail (cf. B 167). The Deduction will be discussed here only very selectively and from a limited point of view. At the end of the second part of the proof, in §26, there seems to be a step that involves the principle of transcendental idealism. The passage sets out to determine the precondition of the synthesis of apprehension, which is the connection of the given manifold in perception. The proof moves to the precondition of a synthetic unity that involves everything that is represented in space and time; this precondition is agreement with the categories: But this synthetic unity [of everything that is represented in space and time] can be none other than that of the combination of the manifold of a given intuition in general in an original consciousness, in agreement with the categories, only applied to our sensible intuition. Consequently all synthesis, through which even perception itself becomes possible, stands under the categories, and since experience is cognition through connected perceptions, the categories are conditions of the possibility of experience, and are thus also valid a priori of all objects of experience. (B 161)

Allison comments on the last sentence as follows: ‘Although part of the same sentence as the preceding step [concerning the synthesis of perceptions], this constitutes a distinct step in the argument, because Kant here moves from perception to experience.’ (Allison 2004: 197) The proofs of the Second and Third Analogies have a similar line at the end (cf. B 234, 258), but whereas they refer to the particular principles involved in the proofs, Kant here is referring to the whole set of categories. These, he says, are not only valid as conditions of the possibility of experience but also as conditions of the objects themselves. Allison comments that this move is made ‘without any argument other than an appeal to the definition of experience as “cognition through connected perceptions” ’ (Allison 2004: 197; cf. B 161). Accordingly, the synthesis of apprehension


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is in some way connected to the unity of a given intuition in general, and, as a consequence, the former is possible in accord with the categories just as this is the case with the latter. What exactly their relation is need not detain us here, because the conclusion that is of most interest comes next and last. Invoking the definition of ‘experience’, Kant concludes that if a diachronic manifold of perception is possible only in accordance with the categories, the same is valid of all objects of experience. How must we understand ‘perception’ in order to make maximal sense of this step? If perceptions in Kant were to be merely subjective affections of the human mind, our perceptual contact with things in space would really consist in something infinitely thinner than ‘seeing’ or ‘touching’. The way we experience the world would be a representation constructed from that meager input, and the principle of transcendental idealism would have to be interpreted as a claim of a necessary correspondence between our mind’s representational content and the way things are, that is, as far as their formal characteristics are concerned. On this interpretation, Kant would accept the indirect model of perception but supplement it with a necessary homomorphism between mind and world. Such a reading is found, for example, in Fromm’s 1979 book on Kant and Wittgenstein. Fromm interprets the deliverances of the senses in Kant as private sense-data. She argues that, for him, the forms of sensibility ‘prove indirectly’ that there must be objects outside of the sensible subject (cf. Fromm 1979: 40, 158). This is the conclusion to be expected from a commentator who assumes that Kant’s ‘perceptions’ are subjective affections. Transcendental idealism ends up being in crucial respects just like problematic idealism, as also happens in Hacker (cf. chapter 12). A similar reading is – surprisingly – defended by Prauss. It is not satisfactory to say, as he does, that material objects are not inferred from our subjectively private perceptions, but erdeutet, construed through interpretation (cf Prauss 1971: 144–147). Prauss’ proposal could only put Kant’s idealism in a better position if we were to be generally more certain about interpretations than we are of explanatory inferences. This is not the case, and that really is too much of an immediate problem for his proposal to gain much attraction. Talk about ‘interpretation’ comes in handy in this

17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction


connection and is often used by commentators.3 How little is elucidated by talking of an ‘interpretation’ of perceptions is brought out by noting that interpretation can never start from scratch; it cannot confer meaning upon signs in the first place. As Wittgenstein has noted in different ways and contexts, we do not ‘interpret’ things that are entirely meaningless to us, so that they become meaningful through interpretation.4 Only what is already meaningful lends itself to interpretation, which per extrapolation applies to perceptions as well. If, however, perceptions are supposed to be meaningful, they do not differ crucially from the deliverances of empirical intuition, and thus we had better use another word in order to avoid confusion. Prauss is aware of this distinction when he says that appearances, the objects of perception, have first to be made into ‘letters’, prior to their interpretation. The categories do not serve ‘reading’ itself; they are a precondition of ‘reading’ (cf. Prauss 1971: 95–98). He is unable to say anything more about the original act of ‘spelling’ that presumably makes appearances readable in the first place, than that it is spontaneous and creative. Appearances are objects of perception and must in some way be sensibly determined.5 As such, they cannot be aligned with the categories in arbitrary ways. To say that the categories are used to ‘interpret’ appearances creates an impression of familiarity that is really absent here. Any such approach is justly rejected by Kotzin and Baumgärtner: In our view, an empirical intuition whose object is undetermined – i.e., an empirical intuition considered in isolation from that element which would make it determined – is a factor in experience and not an experience. Correspondingly, the “undetermined object of an empirical intuition” is not an empirical object. In particular, it is not, as Prauss would have it, a “subjective object” of inner sense which falls in the domain of empirical psychology. … In our view, the distinction between ‘determined’ and

3 See

Prauss 1974: 106f., Allison 2004: 251 and Guyer 1987: 149, 153, 209, 211, 248, 266, 328. BB: 2f., PG: 46f., RFM: 341f., PI §198. 5 It should be noted that the notion of ‘appearance’ is here used differently than earlier in this study, where ordinary empirical objects were referred to as ‘appearances’. Here, ‘appearances’ are objects of perception in Kant’s sense. 4 See


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‘undetermined’ is made from the Critical-transcendental standpoint and pertains to formal elements in experience. (Kotzin & Bg. 1990: 409)

The ‘formal’ aspect in empirical intuition may even be taken to include the forms of sensibility (cf. Kotzin & Bg. 1990: 409). ‘Perception’, merely as such, would then not even be something that is temporally ordered. The authors maintain that any example of a perception, which in Kant is expressed in the form of a judgement of perception, is merely an ‘empirical analogue’ of what really is in question (cf. Kotzin & Bg. 1990: 411f.). There is a passage where Kant says that ‘empirical intuition is not put together out of appearances and space (out of perception and empty intuition)’, which suggests that ‘perception’ does not abstract from the forms of sensibility as it does from the forms of the understanding (A 430 n./B 458 n.). Elsewhere, however, he says: ‘I generate time itself in the apprehension of the intuition.’ (A 143/B 182) If the representation of time is generated in apprehension, this implies the possibility of even temporally unconnected representations, as is confirmed by the first preliminary reminder to the Deduction in the first edition (A 98–100; cf. B 129f.). To see whether any progress can be made with an alternative interpretation, it will be assumed here that perception stops nowhere short of the object. Whoever perceives something in the Kantian sense stands in immediate perceptual contact with a real object. This is a direct, or ‘relational’, conception of perception.6 Perception, however, is ‘protoconceptual’ and thus ‘pre-cognitive’, as Allison says (Allison 2004: 198). If Kantian perception is ‘relational’, the relata can only be categorially undetermined appearances. As a result, one will have to say that synthesis takes direct perceptual objects as its point of departure, which ‘become’ the matter of experiential objects through that connecting activity. Categorial thinking cannot bring us in contact with things, which is wholly a matter of the senses (cf. Allais 2015: 13f., 147f.). And yet it is only through categorial thinking that the objects of perception ‘become’ re-identifiable objects in the full-fledged sense. The relation of a perception to its object

6 This line of interpretation has been intensely explored by Allais (cf. Allais 2007: 468f., Allais 2015: 12f., 104–116).

17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction


is more primitive. Although this is a difficult idea, let us see how far it can bring us. Supposing that ‘perception’ involves an immediate contact to a real object allows us to interpret the earlier-quoted conclusion of the Deduction differently. Kant says that ‘experience is cognition through connected perceptions’ (B 161, cf. A 180/B 223). What is connected are direct objects of perception which then ‘become’ objects of experience through that connection. Appearance, understood as the object of perception, ‘becomes’ part of the more complex object of experience. This is able to explain how Kant can move so swiftly from the representation of objects to the objects themselves. The present approach combines a realistic conception of perception with an idealistic conception of experience, each of which responds to a distinct problem. One problem is how the mind can access a non-psychological world, to which the answer is that perception is direct. The other problem is how to arrive at the idea of a knowable object. The answer to this question is that what is to count as a knowable object in general is entirely determined by the synthetic unity of apperception. Furthermore, to make room for the possibility of illusion, it would have to be assumed that perceptions can be confused with illusions of them. That is, an illusory and a veridical empirical intuition would have to be different ab ovo, right from the start. How well does this view correspond to the relevant texts? A problem for interpreting ‘perception’ as having an object on its own is posed by a passage where Kant says that ‘the unity of consciousness is that which alone constitutes the relation of representations to an object’ (B 137; cf. A 197/B 242). This suggests that perception has no such relation. But he also says that ‘sensation … if it is applied to an object in general without determining it, is called perception’ (A 374). According to this passage, perception does have an object. To render these passages consistent, I suggest introducing a distinction between two senses of ‘object’: the preliminary ‘object’ of perception and ‘objects’ in the fullfledged sense of empirical substances. An object of perception, also called ‘appearance’, is an ‘object’ only at an interim stage of synthesis. A subtler difficulty for the interpretation under consideration is involved at the beginning of the paragraph from which I quoted above (cf.


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B 161). Kant there refers to the ‘forms of outer as well as inner sensible intuition’, to which ‘the synthesis of apprehension’ must correspond. The ‘synthesis of apprehension’, he explains, is ‘the composition of the manifold in an empirical intuition, through which perception, i.e., empirical consciousness of it (as appearance) becomes possible’ (B 160, cf. B 164f.). This suggests that ‘perception’ is really something more complex, which involves a synthesis of the imagination. Apprehension is here not explained as ‘an active faculty’ of the mind, ‘whose action [is] exercised immediately upon perception’ (A 120), but as something that is constitutive even of perception itself. Within the framework of the interpretation under consideration, the problem can be resolved in the following way. Although ‘perception’ is given a more complex sense in §26, Kant need not mean to deny thereby that perception is essentially direct. His reason for including the reproductive function of imagination in the notion of ‘perception’ is, probably, that only perception together with apprehension can be said to be a perception of and for a subject. Accordingly, when he says in §26 that ‘even perception itself becomes possible’ through synthesis (B 161), he does not mean to say that the initial relation of perception to its object becomes possible; what becomes possible is the appropriation of perceptions of an identical subject over time. Accordingly, ‘perception’ is here given the force of ‘(mere) perception cum apprehension’. A more detailed exegetical defence of this reading can be dispensed with. The stage is sufficiently set for a comparison of the status of transcendental conditions as rules of synthesis and as conditions of cognitive achievements, taken as actual, in regressive transcendental arguments. According to Karl Ameriks’ influential account, a ‘regressive argument would show that y is a necessary condition of knowledge x’. A regressive transcendental argument ‘is not a radical argument from a premise not assuming the possession of knowledge’ (Ameriks 1978: 281f.). This explanation clearly does not imply that a regressive transcendental argument is non-deductive. Its mark is a categorical premise that states that a certain type of knowledge or cognition is actual, as happens in the middle part of the Second Analogy (cf. chapter 16). A regressive argument is concerned with a specific epistemic claim and with particular

17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction


categories. The Transcendental Deduction, in contrast, is concerned with the whole set of categories; it is the paradigmatic example for a progressive transcendental proof in Kant. The interpretation considered here dissociates perception and perceptual objects from sensation as something subjective, or even private. Perception is conceived as having an object on its own but only in a scarequotes sense of ‘object’, assumed as the material for Kant’s transcendental syntheses. Kant explicitly affirms that ‘the combination (conjunctio) can never come to us through the senses’, but ‘is an act of the spontaneity of the power of imagination’, which ‘one must call understanding’ (B 129f., transl. alt.). Through perception alone we do not become aware of particulars in the full-fledged sense, but only with something that in some way ‘turns out’ to be particular at the level of the constituted. Even the most short-lived identity of an object in empirical intuition is already a joint product of sensibility and the spontaneity of the mind. The approach under consideration brings us thus far but not farther. It does nothing to alleviate the problem that has led Strawson to dismiss Kant’s theory of synthesis: The theory of synthesis, like any essay in transcendental psychology, is exposed to the ad hominem objection that we can claim no empirical knowledge of the occurrence of that which is held to be the antecedent condition of empirical knowledge. Belief in the occurrence of disconnected impressions as materials for the process to work on are beliefs which support each other and are necessary to each other. But, by hypothesis, experience can support neither belief[.] (Strawson 1966: 32)

The interpretation given in this chapter rejects the idea that synthesis works upon ‘disconnected impressions’ as something subjective, but cannot avoid the task of having to account for a connecting activity that works on appearances as immediate objects of perception. In this respect, no progress has been achieved. As objects of perception, appearances are sensibly determined and cannot be conjoined according to no-matterwhat category. The question of what kinds of appearances are connected according to what categories remains intractable.


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The issue is briefly addressed in §24, while omitted from §26, not counting the empirical illustrations Kant uses in that section (cf. B 162f.). A popular explanation for the lack of reference to individual categories in the second part of the Deduction is that it is a fully general argument that does not need to address this task (cf., e.g. Pereboom 2006: 155). According to this view, the details can be left to the Analogies of Experience and other sections of the Analytic of Principles. But the idea of such a division of labour cannot be aligned with the fact that these later passages proceed regressively, not progressively. They do not address the question of the role of individual categories in the original synthesis of appearances at all. An alternative explanation for the lack of reference to individual categories is that an answer to this question is prepared in §24 and developed more fully only in the chapter on the schematism, where Kant defines the schemata of individual categories (cf. A 142–145/B 182–184). Kant thinks he needs the doctrine of the schematism to remove the categories’ lack of determinacy which hinders their application to appearances. As has been argued in the last chapter, however, the schematism is incapable of solving the problem for the category of causality. If the unschematized category is inapplicable, this cannot be remedied by invoking its supposedly temporal schema. I therefore contend that the omission of reference to individual categories in the Transcendental Deduction is not due merely to structural peculiarities of the Critique. Individual categories remain unmentioned because Kant is unable to say anything about their use in the original synthesis of appearances. Transcendental synthesis is, in crucial parts, a theoretical posit that is incapable of elucidation. Its indeterminacy parallels the indeterminacy of perception and its objects, for which, just like for Wittgenstein’s simple objects in the Tractatus, no examples can be given (cf. TLP 2.02–2.0232, AWL: 11, PR: 72). The only way in which something can be said about perception is by abstraction from ordinary empirical intuition, and something similar holds true of transcendental synthesis. Guyer is the only commentator that I am aware of who has raised the question of whether there could be mistakes in transcendental synthesis. He thinks that such mistakes must be possible, which crucially contributes to his conclusion that the Deduction is a failure (cf. Guyer 1987: 149f., Guyer 1992: 144). Guyer poses the problem –

17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction


misleadingly, in my view – in terms of an ‘interpretation’ of the matter of perception through the categories. Still, Guyer is right to draw attention to the curious fact that, although synthesis is marked by spontaneity (cf. A 77/B 102), Kant does not reckon with the possibility of error. We seem to have here a unique activity that is unaffected by the human proneness to error. The explanation of this peculiarity of transcendental synthesis is, again, that there is no access to synthesis independent of what it is, by hypothesis, taken to achieve. It is, to borrow a phrase by J. L. Austin, ‘calculated into existence by a transcendental argument’ to solve a problem for us (cf. Austin 1979a: 33). Wittgenstein’s view would have been the same, as he rejects postulational methods in philosophical explanation together with the impersonal stance of theorizing that comes with the distinction of levels and the project of grounding the one in the other (cf. chapter 3). I do not wish to claim that this is the approach he actually associated with Kant. The little evidence that has come down to us suggests otherwise. Commenting on the ‘transcendental’ or ‘critical method’ in the early 1930s, he is reported to have said: ‘This is the right sort of approach. … Kant … started with what we know to be so and so, and went on to examine the validity of what we suppose we know.’ (LWL: 73f.) This is clearly referring to Kant’s regressive method. Wittgenstein nowhere addresses the relation between the progressive and regressive procedures in Kant, which is in focus here. What I want to suggest is that the regressive, or ‘analytic’, procedure in Kant’s theoretical philosophy is logically prior to the progressive one, and that the obscurities in the idea of an original synthesis of appearances and the notion of perception stem from a failed attempt on his part of reversing that priority. The most common approach to Kant’s theory of synthesis in the literature is one of toning down, or weakening, its apparent radicalness. I call ‘weakened’ any account that identifies the original synthesis of appearances unproblematically with a feature of personal experience and thus with something constituted, irrespective of whether this is the way the interpreter views his or her own account. Baum, for example, invokes the passage were Kant says that we are conscious of the ‘original synthetic unity of apperception’ to argue that transcendental synthesis is


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not an assumption (cf. B 135f.; Baum 1986: 89 n. 52). The corresponding synthesis is not the same as the synthesis of apprehension, which I have been for the most part referring to, but the problem with this claim is the same as for all of the syntheses. If we were to be conscious of any of them – together with the categories? – it surely would be sufficient for Kant to say that we are, and the argument would be over. Evidently, this is not what happens. It might be thought that Kant is committed to the view that we are immediately aware of transcendental synthesis, when he suggests that it is what we engage in when we ‘think of the time from one noon to the next’. He continues to say that ‘if I were always to lose the preceding … parts of time … from my thoughts and not reproduce them when I proceed to the following ones, then no whole representation … could ever arise’ (A 102). What is the status of this passage? If we go through the hours from noon until noon purely quantitatively, we may do this by counting the hours or by imagining the hand of a clock. There is little determinacy in what we must do in order to imagine the time from noon to noon. It is not a very useful thing to do. We know how many hours there are from noon to noon. It is not what we do when we are imagining an objective course of events, nor is it how we proceed when we measure the duration of an event. What Kant is doing is offering a model – that of a continuous conjunction of appearances – and not an example for consciously engaging in the actual synthesis of apprehension and reproduction in imagination. We are given a ‘continuistic’ model of consciousness, and the acceptance of this model consists in being prepared to view one’s whole mental life through it. Why, then, not tone down the radicalness of the form-matter contrast in Kant until we get a more tenable conception of synthesis? Why not say with Allais: ‘Intuitions, not sensations, are what we are synthesising; intuitions are not produced via this synthesis’ (Allais 2015: 169; cf. 274)? Allais is not only opposed to a sense-data conception of synthesis, which takes sensations as its material, but apparently to any such account. Taking this line of interpretation means breaking with the idea of a foundational programme that prioritizes form over matter. This is consistent with her interpretation of the Deduction as a regressive argument (cf. Allais 2011a: 102). But whatever is presupposed as constituted in Kant’s

17 ‘Perception’ in §26 of the Transcendental Deduction


Deduction won’t stand under the categories as principles of the original constitution of experience. This is in tension with the claim Kant makes for the Critique in the Prolegomena: ‘This work … tries to develop cognition out of its original seeds without relying on any fact whatever’ (Prol.: 274). Surely, this must apply to the Deduction, if it applies to anything. Henrich rejects the suggestion that sensibility in Kant provides a unity whose origin does not lie in the understanding. He insists that no unity of sensibility as such could be relevant for demonstrating the objective validity of the categories (cf. Henrich 1984: 43f.). Henrich thinks that both a theory of the synthesis of perception and one of the synthesis that relates the first to objects in nature must be given (cf. Henrich 1984: 56f., 73, 80f.). But whereas he thinks it is a difficult task to give a theory of the synthesis of perception, it seems to me that this is impossible. Even on an objective interpretation of perception of the kind given here, there is no answer to a modified version of Strawson’s objection (cf. Strawson 1966: 32). The only possibility, it seems to me, is to start not with perception but with full-fledged empirical intuition and accord priority to regressive transcendental reasoning. This is more palatable to commentators who interpret the Deduction as a regressive argument. I must say that I fail to detect the categorial premises required by such an interpretation in both §20 and §26. I see the Deduction as proceeding essentially by hypothetical syllogisms, while treating the existence of appearances as given with their perception. As I have already noted, Guyer thinks that the Deduction is a patchwork of arguments and not a cogent one. On his view, the goal of the Deduction is attained only in Kant’s doctrine of time-determination as developed in the Analogies of Experience and the Refutation of Idealism. One should not overlook, however, that what may be attained in this way is not the identical aim: The principles of thought which Kant’s argument will finally produce will not be able to be thought as “foundations” imposed on all experience by the form of consciousness itself, but will instead have to be regarded as “restrictions” on those cases of consciousness which do in fact count as cognitive judgments[.] (Guyer 1987: 154)


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This conception corresponds to regressive transcendental reasoning, which is incapable of establishing the categories as governing the original constitution of experience. This approach proceeds to identify formal ‘restrictions’ entirely from within experience, from within the constituted, which means that our full conceptual repertoire is at work. Without synthetic transcendentalism up and running, it thus becomes difficult to rule out that we are merely retracing conceptual connections that are presupposed to be there as soon as something is described in ordinary terms as a cognitive achievement. It becomes difficult to guarantee that it is a particular category that is doing the decisive work in the right manner. When we say, for example, that the way in which a change is perceived must causally depend on the change for the corresponding intuition to be an intuition of it, how can we guarantee that we are not just giving a conceptual analysis, if what we start with is an empirical description? The category of causality, even in its schematized form, could still be entirely empty without empirical concepts for specific causes and specific effects. If the unity of form and matter is prior to both matter and form, a regressive approach won’t allow us to detect that the application of the category of causality to appearances is not made possible by means of the temporal schema of the concept. This can only become clear from a failure of what is attempted in the second part of the Deduction and in the schematism chapter. Exclusive reliance on regressive reasoning not only falls short of Kant’s original claim of establishing the categories as rules of synthesis but also tends to leave the status of the relevant dependencies and connections unclear.7


now think that Cassam was right to reject my earlier, piously Kantian, suggestion that it could be argued by invoking the Analogies of Experience that the categories are means of knowing (cf. Ritter 2009: 79f., Cassam 2009: 106–109).

18 Wittgenstein on Private Ostensive Definition

Wittgenstein’s so-called ‘private language argument’ has often been found evocative of transcendental reasoning. Leslie Stevenson declares that ‘one and the same valid argument can be extracted and reconstructed from some of the writings [Kant and Wittgenstein] left behind them’, namely the Transcendental Deduction and the private language argument (Stevenson 1982: 321). Jonathan Lear also reads the Investigations as incorporating a transcendental argument but reconstructs its aim differently, assigning only a marginal role to the private language discussion (cf. Lear 1984: 227–229). The most common assimilation of the private language argument is the one with Kant’s Refutation of Idealism (cf. Hymers 1997: 442). I shall later discuss such an interpretation in a subsection on an article by Michael Hymers (cf. chapter 19). Other authors, including at one time Peter Hacker and Eckart Förster, have thought that the private language discussion incorporates a transcendental argument, without associating it with any particular transcendental argument in

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_18



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Kant.1 Before addressing these views in the next chapter, I want to examine Wittgenstein’s private language discussion in its own terms. The focus of this discussion are sensations and their grammar, often exemplified by pain. Many Wittgenstein-inspired commentators of Kant have thought that he is susceptible to this line of criticism. I think that this is, in part, correct, but that the consequences for Kant’s theoretical philosophy are not as detrimental as these critics like to think. Curiously, they usually fail to mention the work which features the most problematic statements in the desired respect, the third Critique. In a section entitled ‘On the communicability of a sensation’, we read, for instance: If sensation, as the real in perception, is related to cognition, it is called sensory sensation [Sinnesempfindung]; and its specific quality can be represented as completely communicable in the same way only if one assumes that everyone has a sense that is the same as our own – but this absolutely cannot be presupposed in the case of a sensory sensation. Thus, to someone who lacks the sense of smell, this kind of sensation cannot be communicated; and, even if he does not lack this sense, one still cannot be sure that he has exactly the same sensation from a flower that we have from it. (KdU: 291; cf. Entd.: 341)

To taste, smell, and see for oneself is indispensable for the full mastery of a wide range of sensory concepts. Kant, however, goes beyond this obvious fact when he says, or comes close to saying, that even among people who can taste, smell, and see for themselves I can be sure only about my own case, not about someone else’s, and that what I am sure of, the perceived quality, can never be communicated to others (cf. KdU: 290 n., 320, 328).2 I have argued earlier in this study that Kant should be 1 Hacker attributes this view to his earlier self and explicitly recants it in the second edition of Insight and Illusion (cf. Hacker 1986: xi, 211f.). The first edition does not contain such a statement, but in an article published in 1972, Hacker talks of ‘the similarity between Wittgenstein’s private language argument and doctrine of criteria and Kantian transcendental arguments’ and of a projected ‘combination of this doctrine with the core of Kantian transcendental arguments’ (Hacker 1972a: 78, 83). Förster expresses some exegetical reservations about reading the private language discussion as a transcendental argument but thinks that the suggestion merits serious consideration (cf. Förster 1989: 9; 11; 19, n. 17). 2 This is how Hacker and Noë have read the passage on the intellectual ‘I’ in Kant (cf. chapter 14).

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viewed as accepting an expressibility condition on thought (cf. chapter 4). The quoted passage suggests that he requires no expressibility condition with regard to sensation. He seems to allow for the possibility of a content a person is acquainted with but cannot communicate. Since this ‘matter’ belonging to perception is involved in any empirical cognition, Kant’s view becomes vulnerable to sceptical charges. This definitely presents a threat, but there is also a remedy in Kant. In another passage, we read that impressions of pain and lust do not represent anything existing in space (cf. A 374). Allison suggests that ‘feelings are denied any representative function’ in Kant (Allison 2004: 278). I find the textual basis not sufficiently instructive on this point, but Allison is certainly right when he asserts that, according to Kant, ‘feelings’ in the sense of sensations are not immediate cognitions of the soul. In a reflection from the 1780s, Kant characterizes pains as immediate influences on the consciousness of life, which, as such, cannot be conceptualized.3 Accordingly, although pain ‘refers to the subject as a modification of its state’, qua being a sensation, it cannot be something one immediately knows about oneself (A 320/B 376). A cognition can only arise from the unification of concept and intuition (cf. A 51/B 75). This basic tenet of Kant’s theoretical philosophy makes it unfit as a target for this type of Wittgensteinian criticism. Once, this was also Hacker’s view. In the first edition of Insight and Illusion, he writes that one can ‘conceive of Wittgenstein’s purpose in the private language argument as being an endeavour to extend and elaborate the Kantian dictum that intuitions without concepts are blind’, and that, insofar, the point of Wittgenstein’s argument is ‘an elementary Kantian one’ (Hacker 1972b: 216, 239). Hacker does not elaborate, but he must have had something similar in mind as McDowell, when the latter says that the ‘general point’ of the private language discussion is ‘that a bare presence cannot supply a justificatory input into a conceptual repertoire from outside it’ (McDowell 1996: 20). I shall return to this point later in this chapter. 3 ‘Vergnügen

und Schmerz werden empfunden …, ohne daß man den mindesten Begrif sich von ihnen machen könte, denn sie sind unmittelbare Einflüsse auf das Bewustseyn des Lebens.’ (Ak. XV: 261, R 610)


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Some commentators have made much of the fact that Wittgenstein does not say in the Investigations that a private language is impossible (cf. Cavell 1979: 344). The word he uses in the opening section of the private language discussion is denkbar, ‘conceivable’; he asks, ‘But is it also conceivable …?’ (PI §243b). In the literature, this contrast has sometimes been associated with two ways of interpreting Wittgenstein’s argument, particularly the argument of §258. On the one hand, it has been viewed as a reductio ad absurdum (cf. Mulhall 2007: 18, Stern 2011: 334–344). On the other hand, it has been noted that a reductio argument does not begin with an absurdity but derives one by reasoning; the argument of §258, in contrast, starts off with the statement of an idea that turns out to be absurd, as soon as an attempt is made to spell it out (cf. Mulhall 2007: 99, Stern 2011: 344–347). Whatever the merits of these interpretations, they cannot be aligned with Wittgenstein’s use of the terms ‘possible’ and ‘conceivable’. In an earlier chapter, I quoted a passage from the 1930s where he draws no principled contrast between these terms (cf. chapter 2). Moreover, the phrase ‘possibility of a private language’ occurs in various places in Wittgenstein,4 and in a passage to be examined in a moment he speaks of the impossibility of private ostensive definition (cf. RPP I §397). How is the idea of a private language explained? After describing a people who only talk to themselves and after noting that their language could be translated, since they accompany their actions with monologue, Wittgenstein writes: But is it also conceivable that there be a language in which a person could write down or give voice to his inner experience – his feelings, moods, and so on – for his own use? — Well, can’t we do so in our ordinary language? – But that is not what I mean. The words of this language are to refer to what only the speaker can know – to his immediate private sensations. So another person cannot understand the language. (PI §243b)

4 See vW 164: 93

= RFM: 334, 1941–44; vW 127: 149, between 4 March and 7 April 1944; vW 124: 189, 13 April 1944; and vW 180a: 13r, 1944–45.

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The idea, as it is expressed in this passage, can be stated as follows. Let sensations be private to the person who has them, ‘private’ in the sense of being epistemically accessible only to the owner; let the sign ‘S’ stand for such a private sensation S, which would be the whole meaning of the sign (cf. PI §293c); let understanding ‘S’ consist in knowing what ‘S’ stands for; finally, let any connection between the private sensation and ‘S’, such as ‘naming’, ‘pointing inwardly to it’, and so on, also be private to the owner. Given these assumptions, it follows that another person cannot understand ‘S’, or any other word of that supposed language. The reason is that S is epistemically inaccessible to others, and it is what ‘S’ stands for, so that the object named by ‘S’ is inaccessible to others; since to understand ‘S’ is, per the assumption, to know what ‘S’ stands for, other people cannot understand it. I take this to be a standard account of the idea of a private language (cf. Mulhall 1990: 55, Schroeder 1997: 23). A typical member of the first group of commentators of Wittgenstein’s argument, or arguments, is Norman Malcolm. Malcolm gives the following summary: ‘The argument that I have been outlining has the form of reductio ad absurdum: postulate a ‘private’ language; then deduce that it is not a language.’ (Malcolm 1968: 75). Pears, another commentator, calls it ‘a self-contained reductio’ (Pears 1988: 390). He remarks that ‘since it is a reductive argument, we ought to be able to identify its premisses, reduce the set to absurdity, and point to the culprit’ (Pears 1988: 397). Pears admits that it is difficult to do so. Hacker can also be quoted in this connection: ‘The refutation of the supposition of the possibility of a private language is, in a loose sense, a reductio ad absurdum of an array of deep presuppositions.’ (Hacker 1993: 7; not in Hacker 2019a) It is not clear whether Hacker belongs in a group with Malcolm and Pears, due to his addition of ‘in a loose sense’, or ‘after a fashion’ (cf. Hacker 1972b: 215). One would not say that an argument is ‘after a fashion’ a modus ponens. Apparently, he does not mean to say that Wittgenstein’s argument is a formal reductio (cf. Baker & Hacker 2005: 294). According to the second group of commentators, the idea stated two paragraphs back is absurd in itself. This is certainly contrary to appearance, but one should recall that the opposing claims in Kant’s first antinomial conflict did not seem absurd either (cf. chapter 5). It is,


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therefore, only as ‘raw material’ for thought that the ‘standard’ account of the idea of a private language can be accepted (cf. PI §254). A merely formal treatment is not sufficient to tell whether the terms involved actually do the work they seem to do. This applies even to the simplest terms involved, such as ‘sensation’ or ‘I have’: What reason have we for calling “S” the sign for a sensation? For “sensation” is a word of our common language, which is not a language intelligible only to me. So the use of this word stands in need of a justification which everybody understands. – And it would not help either to say that it need not be a sensation; that when he writes “S” he has Something – and that is all that can be said. But “has” and “something” also belong to our common language. (PI §261)

One might feel that it is trivial that if we are not given a description of what we are to conceive, we cannot conceive it. We cannot conceive nomatter-what! Two things need to be pointed out in reply. First, everything that we are supposed to imagine in connection with a ‘private language’ must be compatible with the possibility that what we imagine is a mere semblance of a language. I take §261 to be a reminder that we can only be speaking by way of a comparison when we say that the private-language speaker has a sensation to which he refers by ‘S’. Second, there is indeed something curious about our situation. How can Wittgenstein give us as much as an instruction to conceive of something that, as we suspect, will turn out to be inconceivable (cf. PG: 392)? I think our situation is as follows. Wittgenstein has to give a basic description of a ‘private language’, using familiar words such as ‘sensation’, ‘have’, ‘sign’, and so on, in order to say what a private language at least resembles. By using the word ‘sensation’ in his basic description, Wittgenstein marks out a grammatical area in which ‘having an S’ is to be situated. After this area has been marked out, the props by which that has been done must be removed; they do not belong to what is to be imagined. They only serve to specify what a private analogue to our ordinary sensation language would have to correspond to (cf. RPP I §396; Schulte 2011: 19f.). The account I have referred to as ‘standard’ makes no reference to privacy of ownership (cf. PI §253). The possibility that someone else

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might have the same sensation as the private-language speaker is not excluded by this account. Assuming that S is the same kind of sensation in both cases, it becomes imaginable that the private-language speaker has the same ‘understanding’ as another private-language speaker, which some commentators believe to be inconsistent with the idea of a private language. This is difficult to reconcile with the following remark: The essential thing about private experience is really not that each person possesses his own specimen, but that nobody knows whether other people also have this or something else. The assumption would thus be possible – though unverifiable – that one section of mankind had one visual impression of red, and another section another. (PI §272)

Admitting that more than one person can have the same private sensation does not relevantly alter the situation. The view that you cannot know of my pain because you cannot have it is not part of the basic conception of a private language (cf. Schroeder 2013: 202). In my view, the problem of ownership is an independent source of the idea of a private language (cf. chapter 14). After introducing the idea of a private language, Wittgenstein turns to ordinary sensation language, exemplified by ‘pain’, in §244. In §246, he makes a controversial claim about knowing that one is in pain, which needs to be addressed: In what sense are my sensations private? – Well only I can know whether I am really in pain; another person can only surmise it. – In one way this is false, and in another nonsense. If we are using the word “know” as it is normally used (and how else are we to use it?), then other people very often know if I’m in pain. – Yes, but all the same, not with the certainty with which I know it myself! – It can’t be said of me at all (except perhaps as a joke) that I know I’m in pain. What is it supposed to mean – except perhaps that I am in pain? (PI §246a–b)

That one cannot say of me that I know that I am in pain is in need of qualification. If, for example, I am asked by the doctor whether my arm is still hurting, I may not know the answer until I have made some movements of the relevant kind. Nevertheless, the doctor is right to note


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down ‘still has pain’. This won’t be a description of an occurrent state of pain, but a description of my experiencing pain in relevant respects, which have to do with movement. Or, I may have constant pain of varying intensity, so that I could be distracted from it at various moments. If I am suddenly asked whether I am still suffering, when I am being distracted, I may react with hesitation. Still, the asker will be justified in reporting that I still have pain, as a summary description of my condition. Taken in this sense, it is true that I had pain, although I was not aware of it. In both cases, however, it would not be appropriate to say that I felt pain when I did not move my arm, or when I was distracted. The formulation with ‘feel’ is a way to specify which sense of ‘having’ pain is at issue in §246. I proceed with the passage which I have mentioned before, where Wittgenstein talks of the impossibility of private ostensive definition. The manuscript contains a drawing of a motor roller, which, as it turns out, is a misconstruction.5 A version of the illustration is reproduced in Philosophical Grammar (cf. PG: 194), probably based on Wittgenstein’s simple drawing of the motor roller in the following Nachlass passage: A queer label on a book: “This book must be read in this room.” (Much could be explained through this.) … That label on a library book & the remark that I once actually read as an addendum to a set of room regulations: “These rules must not be violated” are just as ineffective as the machine my father once invented & whose ineffectiveness he first did not realize see. It was supposed to be a road roller. The working cylinder is fastened inside the roller, & in this way the whole thing is of course a rigid system whose parts cannot move against each

other. And on the other hand one can roll it on the street as one likes, & it … is always right. I want to say: whatever one does with the roller, it’s always fine with the inner of the roller. (And therein lies the analogy.) (vW 110: 286f., 4 July 1931, transl. B. R.) 5 See

vW 131: 219–222, 8 and 9 September 1946.

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The points where the cylinder is fastened and where the rod is attached to the crankshaft cannot be moved relative to each other. What is supposed to produce the movement is made dependent on what it should move. Something similar applies to the statement ‘This book must be read in this room’. It is a perfectly informative statement, were it to be uttered by a person who can point to the book and indicate the room. Writing the sentence on the book itself brings it about that where the label says that the book must be read is dependent on where the book actually is. Pears writes that ‘the piston and cylinder are … mounted inside the drum of the roller, replacing one of its spokes, which are, of course, held rigidly in place’ (Pears 1988: 421, my emphasis). Literally taken, this is wrong. In contrast with the illustration in Philosophical Grammar, there are no spokes in Wittgenstein’s drawings, neither in the one redrawn in the quotation above nor in that of September 1946 (cf. vW 131: 219–222). But Pears is essentially right if he is taken to mean that this is what the system cylinder–piston–connecting rod comes down to. As will become apparent in a moment, it can indeed be seen in this way. In Wittgenstein’s simple drawing, there is not much to be seen of the crankshaft. It lies in the dimension of the vanishing point and can only be represented by a dot or a small circle. As a consequence, it is difficult to understand how the parts hang together, and how the machine is, at least, supposed to work. The construction can be represented more perspicuously by drawing the roller slightly rotated away from the frontal view (cf. Figure 18.1). If it were to be possible for the piston to move back and forth in the cylinder, this back-and-forth movement would be transformed into a circular movement by the connecting rod and the crankshaft. Why this movement is impossible can best be appreciated by imagining a person who tries to do the same as the machine (cf. Figure 18.2). The person’s feet are fastened to the inside of the drum just where the cylinder was. He seizes the crankshaft with his hands and pushes it away from him with all his might, using also the muscles of his legs. This would be the right thing to do if he wanted to break off the handle. The ‘handle’, or the crankshaft, is rigidly connected with the spokes, and the spokes rigidly connected with the drum against which he pushes his feet. Thus, he could just as well seize one of the spokes and try to move the


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roller by pushing it away from him. This can also be expressed by saying that the system consisting now of the man is just like another spoke. In §397 of the Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Wittgenstein makes the same two points as in the 1931 passage: that the motor roller is a rigid system and that it can be rolled from the outside in both directions without involving its inner mechanism. This time, he relates these points to private ostensive definition: The example of the motor roller with the motor in the drum of the roller is actually far better and deeper than I have explained. For when someone shewed me the construction I saw at once that it could not function, since one could roll the cylinder from outside even when the ‘motor’ was not running; but this I did not see, that it was a rigid construction and not a machine at all. And here there is a close analogy with the private ostensive definition. For here too there is, so to speak, a direct and an indirect way of gaining insight into the impossibility. (RPP I §397, transl. alt.)

Many commentators have taken the first to be the direct, and the second the indirect, way (cf. Mulhall 1990: 54–60, Hacker 2019b: 60). They have associated ‘direct’ with something that is immediately obvious and ‘indirect’ with something that is less obvious. I think that it is really

Fig. 18.1

Wittgenstein’s motor roller

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Fig. 18.2


The man-motor

the other way around. What Wittgenstein saw at once corresponds to the indirect way because it is an inference. The motor roller is just one big wheel, and when it is rolled from outside, the inner mechanism remains at rest. This is the basis of the inference that the mechanism can be dispensed with, that it is in toto ‘a mere ornament’, as Wittgenstein says in another context (cf. PI §270a). This indirect way of perceiving the impossibility of private ostensive definition corresponds to those parts of Wittgenstein’s discussion that are summarized in the famous ‘beetle in a box’ passage (PI §293). On the other hand, one might not see immediately that the point where the cylinder motor is fixed and the point where the connecting rod is attached cannot move relative to each other. Replacing the motor in the figure by a man is an aid to making it more perspicuous. This is something that can only be perceived directly and corresponds to the passages centreing around §258, i.e. §256 and §258–269. §257 is often discussed in preparation of the argument of §258. It is even claimed that ‘PI 258 is a comment on PI 257’ (McGinn 1997: 131). As this might seem to support a rival interpretation to the one suggested here, §257 needs to be addressed as well:


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“What would it be like if human beings did not manifest their pains (did not groan, grimace, etc.)? Then it would be impossible to teach a child the use of the word ‘toothache’.” – Well, let’s assume that the child is a genius and invents a name for the sensation by himself! – But then, of course, he couldn’t make himself understood when he used the word. – So does he understand the name, without being able to explain its meaning to anyone? – But what does it mean to say that he has ‘named his pain’? – How has he managed this naming of pain? – And whatever he did, what was its purpose? (PI §257)

There are many things to comment upon here. Anticipating the discussion ahead, I would like to point out only one thing: the most common interpretation of the remark is that whatever the child does could not classify as ‘inventing a name of a sensation’ in the context described by Wittgenstein.6 If this is accepted, it should be immediately clear that the point of §257, whatever exactly it is, must be different from that of the next section. For if it is correct that the direct way of perceiving the impossibility of private ostensive definition is operative in §258, it certainly does matter what the would-be speaker of a private language is doing to introduce ‘S’ as a name for a sensation. §257 is more plausibly viewed as an interpolation. Let us for once quote the text by which it is framed without it: But suppose I didn’t have any natural expression of sensation, but only had sensations? And now I simply associate names with sensations, and use these names in descriptions. – (PI §256) [1] Let’s imagine the following case. I want to keep a diary about the recurrence of a certain sensation. To this end I associate it with the sign “S” and write the sign in a calendar for every day on which I have the sensation. — (PI §258)

The beginning of §258 repeats the word ‘associate’ thus signaling continuity with §256, where it appears italicized. A continuity that is

6 Cf.,

e.g. McGinn 1997: 127f., 131, Stroud 2000b: 155, and Stern 2004: 178; other than Hacker 1972b: 229 and Hacker 2019b: 55.

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still uninterrupted in the next-to-last version of the text, where §258 immediately follows §256 (cf. KgE: 876f.). Let us now turn to the first part of §258 quoted above. It seems clear that the diarist cannot be allowed to use the word ‘sensation’ to characterize the grammar of the private sign. This would be inconsistent with the idea that a private language should be a language ‘which only I myself can understand’ (PI §256). But if this is taken to be crucial for §258, it becomes puzzling why Wittgenstein keeps the word ‘sensation’ even after the possibility of a verbal definition has been excluded. I quote the continuation: [2] I first want to observe that a definition of the sign cannot be formulated. – But all the same, I can give one to myself as a kind of ostensive definition! – How? Can I point to the sensation? – Not in the ordinary sense. But I speak, or write the sign down, and at the same time I concentrate my attention on the sensation – and so, as it were, point inwardly. – (PI §258)

One possibility for explaining why Wittgenstein does not take issue with the interlocutor’s use of ‘sensation’ is that he assumes a distinction between his vocabulary and ours, as the describers of what the diarist is doing. It may be the remaining prop which Wittgenstein will remove only in §261. However, even after §261 Wittgenstein presents his interlocutor as saying: ‘Surely I can (inwardly) resolve to call THIS “pain” in the future.’ (PI §263) If it is essential for this part of the argument that there should be no grammatical stage-setting, why does Wittgenstein not take the word ‘pain’ away from him? I shall return to the question in a moment. Wittgenstein’s observation ‘that a definition of the sign [‘S’] cannot be formulated’ is what prompts the idea of a private ostensive definition. The idea is that I know what I feel, and I know what I mean by a name which I myself have introduced for what I feel. The only thing I need to do, on this conception, is to provide the ‘what’. This must be done in a way that excludes any possibility for someone else not only to observe what sensation I connect with ‘S’ but also in a way that does not involve any words that might be translatable into common language. ‘S’ must be directly connected to whatever sensation I intend to introduce a name


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for, which is best done by concentrating my attention on it. This initiates the endgame: [3] But what is this ceremony for? For that is all it seems to be! A definition serves to lay down the meaning of a sign, doesn’t it? – Well, that is done precisely by concentrating my attention; for in this way I commit to memory the connection between the sign and the sensation. – But “I commit it to memory” can only mean: this process brings it about that I remember the connection correctly in the future. (PI §258)

Wittgenstein then delivers his famous line that whatever is going to seem correct to me would be correct, which is why one cannot really speak of ‘correctness’ here at all. Before commenting on these lines, I wish to quote a passage from the mid-1930s, which I think contains a blueprint of Investigations, §258. The passage states more explicitly what I take to be the basic defect in private ostensive definition. A similar passage is found in Wittgenstein’s ‘Notes for Lectures’, but the version in the lecture is fuller in crucial respects (cf. NFL: 277 = vW 151: 12, 1936): If I point to something and use a name, I either (1) designate that which I point to as a sample which I am going to use in my language in future. “I am going to call what I see now ‘green’ ” – “I am going to call this ‘green’ ”. This is not attributing the property ‘green’ to something but saying I am going to use it ((what I point to)) as a sample. I can then (2) look over there and say “I see this colour” ((pointing to the same object as before)). Then I am already using it as a sample. But the temptation is to do something between these two, and use it as a sample of itself, so to speak. We use the expression “a certain …”. “I have a certain feeling.” “A certain” is all right in “I met a certain man – namely Smith”. But “a certain experience” – if you concentrate on your toothache and say you are concentrating on a certain experience, then you have the idea that you have pointed to something, – as though when you say “toothache is a certain experience” you have defined the word “toothache”. (LSD: 334f.)

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There is a temptation, says Wittgenstein, to conflate the introduction of a new sign by means of a sample, as in (1), with a use of the sample in a statement, as in (2). Concentrating one’s attention on a sensation like a toothache while stating its purported definition, ‘a certain experience’, is an example for such a conflation. Wittgenstein thinks that one does not define the word ‘toothache’ in this way. If this is correct, he need not exclude that the word ‘sensation’ is available in §258 for the argument to have force. This is possible if the point of §258 is the same as here: that we are tempted to ‘use [the sensation] as a sample of itself, so to speak’ (LSD: 335). Private ostensive definition is supposed to be a private analogue of stipulative definition. This is the respect in which it is analogous to (1). At the same time, the diarist acts as if it were already clear what it is that he has. In this respect, he imagines the situation to be as in (2). The need to specify the way, or respect, in which S is a sample seems to be answered by S itself, as if it were to be possible to explain ‘S’ by reference to the kind of thing S is, and what kind of thing S is by S itself. In other words: ‘[T]he experience which I have seems, in a certain sense, to take the place of a description of this experience. “It is its own description.” ’ (NFL: 211) A private ostensive definition might be thought of even as an ideal stipulative explanation of a general name. Since the thing itself is invoked to say what it is, the possibility of a mismatch, as between object and description, is ruled out. In fact, since what is explained and what is doing the explaining are rigidly connected with each other, there is no explanation at all, just as a cylinder cannot move the drum of which it is itself a part. Put differently, Wittgenstein grants his interlocutor the full presence of the ‘object’, ‘the sensation’ in its absolute particularity. The diarist is tempted to say (quotation marks omitted): ‘Once you know what the word signifies, you understand it, you know its whole application.’ (PI §264) The slightest change of the particularity of ‘the sensation’, however, raises the question of whether it is still ‘the same’, or, asked the other way around, whether he has attended well enough to ‘the original sensation’. How long did ‘it’ last? What did and what did not belong to ‘it’? In fact, none of these things have been determined; ‘the sensation’ has been treated as both what determines and what is to be


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determined. Putting the point like this goes some way towards articulating the parallel to the Kantian dictum that ‘intuitions without concepts are blind’ (A 51/B 75). The parallel should not mislead one to think that the problem of identification that emerges in §258 is somehow solved in our common language by appeal to public criteria. No, in our common language, the problem does not exist. The upshot of §258 differs in this respect from that of a transcendental argument and its invocation of a ‘condition of possibility’. If the idea of private ostensive definition is incoherent, one cannot point to a condition as to a means by which to make the impossible possible. Instead, I suggest viewing the remark as a critique of what I have called ‘transcendental realism about the mind’ (cf. chapter 12). It critically examines the idea that things ‘in the mind’ are known non-discursively simply in virtue of their immediate presence, and that the minds of other people, which can never become ‘present’ to oneself, are therefore subject to scepticism. Wittgenstein illustrates the vacuity of the appeal to the ‘sensation’ in various ways. He compares it to giving a present to oneself, or catching one’s own thumbs, or putting a hand on the top of one’s head to indicate how tall one is (cf. PI §268, §279, LSD: 359, 20 May 1936). In a Nachlass passage from 1945, he also mentions the motor roller in this connection (the square brackets are Wittgenstein’s): Imagine someone who said: “But I know how tall I am!”, while putting his hand on the top of his head for demonstration. [“I am here!”] Or also: “Every human being knows how tall he is.” [Hangs together with that: “I” designates no person; but also with something’s looking like a definition & not being one (‘private ostensive explanation’) & with the example of the street roller.] (vW 116: 339, 1945, May or later; transl. B. R.)

Just as one might think that in order to drive the street roller in an ultimately direct way one could omit the chassis and mount the cylinder motor inside the drum, one may think that by omitting any respect in which something is to serve as a paradigm for what is to be called ‘S’ one lays down the tracks for future use in the strictest possible way. This is the basic incoherence in private ostensive definition, corresponding to the direct way of perceiving its impossibility.

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What remains to be done is to connect the prominent concluding lines of §258 with what has been said. Concentrating one’s attention on a present experience and writing down the sign ‘S’ is supposed to bring about a correct application of ‘S’ in the future. [4] But in the present case, I have no criterion of correctness. One would like to say: whatever is going to seem correct to me is correct. And that only means that here we can’t talk about “correct”. (PI §258)

Wittgenstein has sometimes been taken to be committed to the view that one cannot identify anything without criteria.7 As an earlier draft of the passage suggests, however, Wittgenstein is not talking of a criterion for the identity of S, but of a ‘criterion for using a word correctly’ (cf. vW 180a: 12v, 1944 or 45). Thus, he is asking for a way to tell whether ‘S’ has been used correctly. One might still wonder why we should need a criterion for this. What Wittgenstein presumably means is what elsewhere he calls ‘a section of the use’ that is appropriate to check someone’s understanding of a word (cf. LFM: 21). ‘Using a word correctly’, like ‘understanding a word’, is not something momentary. Here as elsewhere in Wittgenstein, a ‘criterion’ is not meant to be a mark which guarantees that a word will absolutely be used correctly, as non-standard ways of proceeding are always imaginable. A criterion for someone’s understanding a word is a test we are satisfied with. In the case of the diarist, there is nothing we could be satisfied with, as no point of reference is given for what is to count as correct or incorrect at all. ∗

The indirect way of perceiving the impossibility requires less comment. There is, however, a remark which has continued to cause puzzlement: Let us now imagine a use for the entry of the sign “S” in my diary. I find out the following from experience: whenever I have a particular sensation, a manometer shows that my blood pressure is rising. This puts

7 For

a discussion, see, e.g. Strawson 1954: 45 and Pears 1988: 343–345, 416.


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me in a position to report that my blood pressure is rising without using any apparatus. This is a useful result. And now it seems quite indifferent whether I’ve recognized the sensation correctly or not. Suppose that I regularly make a mistake in identifying it, this does not make any difference at all. And this alone shows that the supposition of this mistake was merely sham. (PI §270a)8

Wittgenstein seems to commit a mistake here. Certainly, it is not a matter of indifference whether the sensation is recognized correctly or not! I could be certain that I have S and be right or wrong about it without my blood pressure rising. This, however, overlooks that, as Wittgenstein describes the manometer language-game, the situation is to be imagined as one in which the correlation holds. The correlation consists in that ‘whenever I have a particular sensation, a manometer shows that my blood pressure is rising’. To understand this better, we need to distinguish three elements: my belief that a given sensation is S, whether this is true or not, and whether my blood pressure rises or not. As far as the empirical correlation is concerned, the corresponding conditional can be simplified by omitting reference to the sensation: ‘Whenever I believe to have recognized a particular sensation, my blood pressure is rising.’ The table below indicates the presence or absence of S ‘by supposition’, which means that this is not part of the empirical correlation (cf. Table 18.1). As Wittgenstein describes the case, it is assumed as a fact that the correlation, which I rephrased as ‘Whenever I believe to have recognized a particular sensation, my blood pressure is rising’, holds. This means that the third and fourth cases indicated in the table can be left out of consideration. For if my blood pressure were not to rise, the correlation would not hold. With only the first two possibilities remaining, can it be supposed that I believe myself to have recognized a sensation as S, while it is actually some other sensation? The answer is that if S is a sensation in a sense that allows the supposition that it may occur or not occur independently of what the

8 For

a discussion of the closing lines of §270, which are not quoted here, see Cavell 1979: 350 and Mulhall 2007: 126.

18 Wittgenstein on Private Ostensive Definition


Table 18.1 The manometer language-game I believe

By supposition

Blood pressure

to have S to have S to have S to have S


rises rises does not rise does not rise


person believes about himself, it simply drops out of consideration. The supposition does not connect with the language-game in any way. It bears emphasizing how peculiar the status of the supposed presence of S has become. For it is no longer a private object to which only one person at the exclusion of others has immediate access. What is referred to as ‘S’ ends up as something neither public nor private. It is really as if only God were to know whether it is really there (cf. PI §426). That is, only a supernatural being could be granted the capacity to perceive the presence of S in me, when that is inaccessible even to myself. This is a variety of transcendental realism about the mind. It asserts that not only are the minds of other people ‘outside [me] in the transcendental sense’ (A 372) but so, too, are my own sensations in some respect. Supposition also plays a central role in the famous ‘beetle in the box’ passage. I quote the beginning of the second paragraph: Well, everyone tells me that he knows what pain is only from his own case! — Suppose that everyone had a box with something in it which we call a “beetle”. No one can ever look into anyone else’s box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle. –’ (PI §293b)

Looking at one’s own beetle corresponds to an act of introspection. Other than in §270, the object to be known is kept strictly within the realm of privacy; each one enjoys one such realm on his own – symbolized by a box. One can conceive of Wittgenstein’s simile as a game with rules. By the rules of the game, inspecting the box of someone else is not a possible move, and hence saying of someone other than oneself that one knows what he means by ‘beetle’ is not possible either. Such a game is conceivable. It is only when an attempt is made to find psychological analogues of the terms employed in the rules that incoherencies emerge.


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The point will be developed below in a subsection on Mulhall’s views on these matters (cf. chapter 19). I quote the rest of the paragraph: Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in his box. One might even imagine such a thing constantly changing. – But what if these people’s word “beetle” had a use nonetheless? – If so, it would not be as the name of a thing. The thing in the box doesn’t belong to the language-game at all; not even as a Something: for the box might even be empty. – No, one can ‘divide through’ by the thing in the box; it cancels out, whatever it is. (PI §293b)

It is even possible as a supposition that all boxes are empty, provided that one is instructed that if the box is like that, it is what is associated with the word ‘beetle’. It would be distinct from other contents in virtue of being the only case in which the box is empty. What corresponds to the scenario of empty boxes is not pain-behaviour without pain, as Mulhall emphasizes (cf. Mulhall 2007: 135). To foreclose this possible misunderstanding, Wittgenstein specifies the moral of the passage as follows: ‘That is to say, if we construct the grammar of the expression of sensation on the model of “object and name”, the object drops out of consideration as irrelevant.’ (PI §293c) If we construct the grammar of the expression of sensation in this way, then it becomes possible to suppose that different persons refer to different psychological contents when using sensation words. If this construction is adopted, the conclusion becomes inevitable that what sensations are is of no relevance for the functioning of the language-game. The interlocutor believed that the private sensation could be given a role in the language-game, at least for himself, by ‘point[ing] privately to the sensation’ or by giving himself a ‘private exhibition’ (PI §298, §311). To see that assuming such a procedure cannot have any consequences for the functioning of the language is what I take to be the indirect way of perceiving the impossibility of private ostensive definition. Succinctly put, then, the difference between the direct and the indirect way of perceiving the impossibility of private ostensive definition is this: the first aims to show that if we cling to philosophical privacy, we cannot

18 Wittgenstein on Private Ostensive Definition


gain purchase on the idea of a linguistic practice; the second aims to show that if an activity really is linguistic, then there is no role to play for a private sensation in our understanding of that language. Still more succinctly: if we adhere to the idea of privacy, we have to let go of language, and if we adhere to language, we have to let go of privacy.

19 A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant?

Since Erik Stenius made a case for viewing the early Wittgenstein as a Kantian philosopher in 1960, the question whether there is Kantianism or transcendentalism in Wittgenstein has never ceased to be a topic of interest (cf. Stenius 1960, Ch. XI). Most commentators agree that there are Kantian elements in early Wittgenstein but think that the differences between Kant’s critical philosophy and post-Tractarian Wittgenstein run too deep to make much of the parallel.1 Our question may be simplified to whether there are transcendental arguments in the later Wittgenstein. I shall proceed up to a point as if this were to suffice, although ultimately it won’t. I suggest a three-pronged answer to the question of how Wittgenstein relates to Kantian transcendentalism, following the divided fate of the idea of a ‘condition of possibility’. (1) If, on the one hand, we ask of a such condition that it should be a priori, any necessary prerequisite that is in the running to qualify as such a condition will turn out to be part

1 See, e.g. Fromm 1979: 9–18; Haller 1986: 156–159, 163–169; Mosser 1993: 188, 200f.; Hutto 1996: 122–125; Jacquette 1997: 34f., 39–41; Glock 1997: 285; Moore 2007: 176, 187, Moore 2013: 242f.; Hacker 2013: 31, 43–47.

© The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5_19



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of the concept of what it purports to condition, something that would only misleadingly be written as the necessary condition q of a p. This is best illustrated in the private language discussion, which, therefore, would only misleadingly be presented as a piece of transcendental reasoning. (2) If, on the other hand, we turn to those connections Kant considers to be ‘synthetic’ – as between ‘substance’ and ‘accident’, or ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ – then these will be rejected on the ground that they are empty without specific concepts, which in the case of the law of causality means: empirical ones. This might be found evocative of the conclusion Kant himself eventually draws, namely, that the categories are empty without relation to appearances. It is crucial to see that the point made here (i.e. in chapter 16) is a different one, as it is not concerned with this conclusion, but with the argument Kant deploys to establish the objective reality of the categories. (3) If, third, we adhere to the idea that a condition of possibility should be detachable from the conditioned, a condition that is neither analytic nor formal and empty, only the domain of things that stand fast for us remains open. A form of transcendentalism that occupies this domain can only count as deflated in comparison to Kant’s apriorist conception. This is best illustrated in On Certainty, in a way yet to be determined. I shall devote the last subsection of this chapter to the task. In what follows, the relationship between Kant and Wittgenstein summarized here will be further clarified with the help of a selection from the relevant literature. This will also include a coda on the question of idealism, which can be taken up again from a new vantage point. After that, some more specific questions about the private language argument will be (re-)examined: whether it could be considered a transcendental proof, whether Kant’s Refutation of Idealism can be interpreted as anticipating it, and whether the private language argument can refute problematic idealism. The discussion will be divided into short subsections that follow each other in a loose sequence, which means that they do not represent a single line of thought but approach the material discussed above from different angles.

Lear. I begin with a 1984 symposium entitled ‘The Disappearing “We” ’, with Jonathan Lear and Barry Stroud as the contributors. The title makes

19 A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant?


allusion to Bernard Williams’ essay ‘Wittgenstein and Idealism’, which was considered earlier (cf. chapter 2). Lear maintains that Wittgenstein is a transcendentalist on account of adopting a similar principle to what I have called the ‘principle of transcendental idealism’ (cf. chapter 17). By focusing here on Lear’s contribution rather than on Stroud’s I do not mean to defend Lear exegetically; I approach it principally for its having a vision of how Wittgenstein may relate to Kant, which is not often found in the literature. Lear interprets Wittgenstein’s Investigations as giving a transcendental argument which he calls a ‘deduction’. According to Lear, the first stage of the argument is the following: Wittgenstein argues, roughly, that it must be possible for the ‘I understand’ to accompany each of my representations. That is, for a piece of behaviour to be my act of using an expression meaningfully, it must at least be possible to append an ‘I understand’ to it. I must be able to take conscious possession of it for it to be an act of mine. (Lear 1984: 227f.)

This parallels the starting point of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction, the apperceptive ‘I think’, which must be able to accompany all of our representations (cf. B 132).2 In the quotation, the word ‘representation’ is used in a technical sense: a ‘representation’ is a successful use of language (cf. Lear 1984: 227). Lear notes that it is not thereby precluded that I will never append ‘I understand’ to something I only think I understand. He argues that the margins within which such mistaken invocations can be made must be restricted, without excluding them altogether. What must be excluded is the possibility that these mistaken invocations could accumulate so as to undermine language as a means of communication. This exclusion occurs in the second stage of Wittgenstein’s argument, according to Lear:

2 Stroud is quick to point out that Lear does not say where the argument he develops is to be found

in the Investigations, so that it remains unclear whether it is there to be found at all. There is, in fact, overwhelming evidence against it (cf. Stroud 1984b: 254–256 = 93–96).


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[I ]f language is to be a means of communication not only must I be able to attach ‘I understand’ to each of my representations, but it must be possible for the ‘We are so minded:’ to accompany each of our representations. Thus our representations stand between two distinct claims: the ‘I understand’ and the ‘We are so minded:’. (Lear 1984: 229)

The crucial feature of the ‘We are so minded:’ is the colon. The condition receives content only by what is placed after the colon: conformity in sensible capacities, in interests, in our senses of naturalness, and so on. As is indicated by the italicized sentence, Lear is assuming that language is a means of communication. He asks whether this is justified, and answers: ‘As far as I can determine, the Investigations do … not consider this question.’ (Lear 1984: 230) But he thinks that the silence is to be expected if his inquiry is broadly transcendental: we find ourselves as speakers and understanders of language that is used both as a means of thought and of communication, and ask ‘what must be the case for this to be possible?’. (Lear 1984: 230)

This is the pattern of a regressive transcendental argument. What establishes the objective validity of our representations, according to Lear, is that ‘we cannot make any sense of the possibility of being “other minded” ’ (Lear 1984: 232). Our way of being minded sets the limits of any possible way of being minded. According to Lear, Wittgenstein’s appeal to what we can say, imagine, or think, in the Investigations is appended to what can be said, imagined, or thought sans phrase. This is what he means by the ‘disappearing “we” ’ (Lear 1984: 238). ‘We are so minded as to assert: 7 + 5 must equal 12’ reduces to ‘7 + 5 must equal 12’, and, supposedly, ‘We are so minded as to assert: here is a hand’ to ‘Here is a hand’ (Lear 1984: 238). Lear thinks that this amounts to a ‘Wittgensteinian form of transcendental idealism’, as he says in an earlier publication, one that ‘does not depend on a scheme/content distinction, nor … on the existence of a noumenal world’ (Lear 1982: 392). This is his way of situating Wittgenstein with regard to Kant:

19 A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant?


It was Hegel who argued against Kant that ultimately subject could not be separated from object, that there could be no purely formal philosophy, that – to use a phrase with a contemporary ring – there could be no firm distinction between organizing scheme (the mind) and unorganized content. (Lear 1984: 242).

Lear is right to lay stress on the dominance of the subject-object and formmatter distinctions in Kant. This, however, is in need of qualification. As Hegel himself remarks about Kant’s Critique in his Differenzschrift from 1801, the subject-object distinction is suspended for the categories, and only kept for the ‘absolute aposteriority’ of sensibility (cf. Hegel 1801: 10). The matter of sensibility is a posteriori and cannot be anticipated other than empirically, after making observations and forming expectations and empirical rules. One could also say that the object becomes identified with what is material, and the subject with what is formal. I do not take Lear’s claim about the dissolution of the form-matter distinction to imply a strongly anti-sceptical reading of the Investigations.3 This dissolution affects the project of a ‘deduction’, while its consequences for the problem of scepticism are varied and less direct. Lear’s account of how Wittgenstein relates to Kant is stated in terms of a continuity and two contrasts. The continuity is transcendental idealism and the contrasts concern the subject-object distinction and the distinction between form and matter, or ‘scheme’ and ‘content’. It is not straightforward what to do with the subject-object distinction, conceived as a general contrast between their respective views. Lear intimates that Wittgenstein overcomes a distinction to which Kant adheres, but only gestures at the level at which that is supposed to happen by saying that ‘our form of life … is (our) mind objectified’ (Lear 1984: 242). The idea of a ‘form of life’ in Wittgenstein can be interpreted in various ways, but I think I can see what Lear has in mind. It must be something like Wittgenstein’s response to the question of whether our system of colours resides in our nature or in the nature of things, considered earlier (cf.

3 Anti-sceptical

readings are defended in Stevenson 1982: 327–332 and Westphal 2005: 303, 309– 315. For a succinct statement of what is problematic about such a reasoning, see Stern 2000: 57 and, of course, Stroud 1968: 255 = 24.


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chapter 2). Wittgenstein does not think of it as a good question, but the answer he eventually gives invokes the concept of ‘life’, which is a way of saying that our system of colours resides both in the world and in us, but not insofar as they are conceived as separate things. The second contrast that Lear mentions, form and matter, was discussed earlier in connection with Kant’s Transcendental Deduction (cf. chapter 17). I agree with Lear that Wittgenstein re-evaluates the relationship between the form and the matter of concepts and judgements, while Kant defends the priority of form over matter, though not always unequivocally. The task to which he sets himself is to demonstrate how the pure categories relate to appearances. As against this, it was argued here that this task assumes a separation of form and matter that is a false starting point from which to ground their unity, or rather, a separation that makes it look as if there could be such a task. The point is not merely that, contrary to Kant’s view, the pure category of causality is empty without empirical concepts, since this would perhaps not be crucially different from what he says himself (cf. A 430 n./B 458 n., A 677/B 705); it is that Kant believes that he could start from the pure categories and supplement them by their transcendental schemata to provide an a priori foundation of their applicability (cf. chapter 16). If, however, the unity of form and matter is logically prior to their separation, so is the regressive approach to the progressive one, which means that the philosophical satisfaction promised by the latter cannot be attained. Much of what happens in the Transcendental Deduction is an attempt of reversing the priority. What Kant can do is draw in the axis when the rotating body is given; what he cannot do, though he often gives the impression that he can, is just begin with the axis and determine the movement around it.

Nagel and Cerbone. I turn to Lear’s claim that there is a continuity between Kant and Wittgenstein in that both are transcendental idealists. The answer of the earlier discussion was that the problem is not so much one of attribution but one about the attributed (cf. chapter 2). It is unclear how ‘conditions’ of our understanding of concepts should at the same time be ‘conditions of the possibility’ of empirical objects, in a sense that would involve a genuine element of idealism. David

19 A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant?


Cerbone has made a suggestion building on a critical examination of Lear’s and Thomas Nagel’s views, which I think fares better. His account takes transcendental realism as a point of departure. Cerbone finds a contemporary formulation of transcendental realism in Nagel’s The View From Nowhere (cf. Cerbone 2011: 312f.). The relevant section in Nagel begins as follows: Let me turn finally to one of the most important sources of contemporary idealism: Wittgenstein. His later views on the conditions of meaning seem to imply that nothing can make sense which purports to reach beyond the outer bounds of human experience and life, for it is only within a community of actual or possible users of the language that there can exist that possibility of agreement in its application which is a condition of the existence of rules, and of the distinction between getting it right an getting it wrong. This appears to rule out … the use of language … to talk about what we cannot in principle make any judgement about. (Nagel 1986: 105)

Nagel himself speaks of ‘idealism’, not of ‘transcendental idealism’, but since he defends the idea of ‘facts which are in principle beyond the possibility of human confirmation or agreement’, which he also refers to as ‘transcendent’ (Nagel 1986: 107), it is certainly justified to view him as a contemporary transcendental realist. To declare oneself for transcendental realism or against transcendental idealism, it is not enough to say with McDowell: ‘There is no guarantee that the world is completely within the reach of a system of concepts and conceptions as it stands at some particular moment in its historical development.’ (McDowell 1996: 40) One would have to say that not all reality is within the reach of any human system of concepts and conceptions at any time.4 Nagel makes it very clear that this is his view. He also gives us an outline of what transcendental idealism might be, though this sometimes takes a form which I earlier characterized as ill-conceived (cf. Nagel 1986: 90). I shall let Cerbone say what I think needs saying on that score. He opposes Nagel’s allegation against Wittgenstein that the latter would reject Nagel’s

4 See Prauss 1974: 62, 87, 192; Wolff 1981: 52, 58; Allison 2004: 48; Allison 2006: 2; sections 6 and 11.


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realism by appeal to a set of ‘conditions of meaning’, the violation of which would make our words ‘fall into nonsense’. Cerbone continues: Nagel’s words do not so much “lapse into nonsense” owing to their violation of some Wittgensteinian “conditions of meaning” … I would suggest instead that they verge on emptiness, insofar as Nagel offers them in a way that refuses any further articulation or clarification (since, again, any further articulation would involve our using some language, while what Nagel insists upon is an acknowledgment of something necessarily “in principle” beyond that). (Cerbone 2011: 329)

The demand for determinacy is a demand for a connection to existing questions of fact and ways to settle them. Nagel’s view that judgements can be objective in the absence of such a connection is motivated as follows (cf. Nagel 1986: 95f.). It clearly makes sense to say that we can know and experience things that are inaccessible to people whose mental powers are limited by nature, or to people who are deaf. We are also unable to fully explain to them what we know. So, why should it make no sense to say that there could be other beings that are so vastly superior to us in intellectual and perceptual powers that they could know things about which we would not understand anything even if they could tell us? Cerbone is probably right that Wittgenstein would have rejected this argument as involving an empty invocation of ‘intellectual and perceptual powers’. In view of the structural similarity of Nagel’s reasoning to the one underlying the first antinomial conflict, Kant would probably have done the same. We, again, begin with an immanent relation, this time of superiority in intellectual and perceptual powers, which then quickly becomes transcendent. That is how Kant’s conception of transcendental illusion was described earlier.5 Nagel focuses on the fact that our common conception of knowledge requires that the object be independent of our believing it to be thus-andso. Things can be known only if we can also be wrong about them. To this, Kant would agree, but would insist that this independence is itself a 5 Cf.

MLN: 300–302, AWL: 26f. and chapter 1. For a more extended discussion of Wittgenstein, see Cerbone 2011: 318–329; for Kant’s view, see A 277/B 333 and chapter 5.

19 A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant?


condition on possible knowledge, one that we can determine in advance. It cannot turn out that an object of knowledge is not independent of our beliefs. Kant would say that this condition is only one among many, including something’s determinability in space and time and its being capable of becoming integrated into a coherent system which is the world. In determining the object in this way, I take Kant to maintain, we are no longer treating it as absolutely independent of us but as relative to human cognition, including sensibility, and thus as ‘appearance’. To conceive of the condition of independence not as one condition within a framework of conditions but as setting the object entirely outside of any determinations of the kind adumbrated leaves us with an empty conception of an object and an empty conception of the subject. For surely the beings imagined by Nagel could stand to other beings in the same relation we are imagined to stand to them, and so on. I have granted that Wittgenstein would have rejected Nagel’s transcendental realism and that he would have done so without invoking ‘conditions of meaning’.6 This is sufficient for Cerbone to conclude that Wittgenstein is not an idealist, but I wonder why Nagel should agree. Assuming his own transcendental-realist conception of truth and reality, Nagel is right to view Wittgenstein as an idealist, and possibly even without it. Supposing it is right that Wittgenstein would reject transcendent claims as devoid of content rather than as nonsensical due to a violation of ‘conditions of meaning’, this moves his view towards transcendental idealism, as interpreted by Prauss and Allison. For the characterization as ‘devoid of content’ could be plausibly explained as a lack of connection to ordinary ways of checking objective claims, which on the face of it does not differ crucially from the Kantian idea of a lack of relation to possible experience. As Nagel notes, such a connection is also implied in Donald Davidson’s argument against the scheme-content division (cf. Nagel 1986: 94). It seems that Allison would equally disagree with Cerbone, as he maintains that ‘transcendental realism and transcendental idealism constitute two mutually exclusive and all-inclusive metaphilosophical alternatives or standpoints’ (Allison 2004: xv). Accord-

6 Cf.,

e.g. PR §47, §55; BB: 95, OC §482; vW 157a: 70r–v (mid-1930s).


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ing to his view, even the repudiation of transcendental realism is sufficient to commit oneself to transcendental idealism. One might suspect that including Kant’s arguments in the Aesthetic for the ideality of space and time would have led to a different conclusion, probably a less deflationary one. I am not sure. There are – to focus on space only – three arguments for the apriority and/or necessity of space in the early sections of the Critique (cf. A 23f/B 38f., 40f.). The first is a circularity argument and the second turns on a point about conceivability, which means that neither is a transcendental argument. Neither can directly establish the transcendental ideality of space; the second even appears to be metaphysically dogmatic, as it draws its conclusion directly from the representation of space alone. The third is a transcendental argument but a regressive one: it assumes the validity of Euclidian geometry and argues that, for it to be possible as a successful science, space can be nothing but the formal character of the way in which the subject is affected by objects. To restore some of its force, any reconstruction of this argument will in some way have to downplay the fact that Euclidian geometry is no longer considered universally valid. Even without examining these arguments in detail, there are two obvious difficulties that spring to mind for any overall account of Kant’s transcendental idealism to make the Aesthetic weigh in its favour. First, it is exceedingly difficult to extract from it a conception of the ideality in question that is as much as consistent with that of the Analytic and the Dialectic; second, it is equally difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to reconstruct the arguments from the Aesthetic in a way that is compatible with Kant’s critical methodology. Thus, what the Aesthetic adds to Kant’s doctrine, above all, is more inconsistency, more of what fuels the dialectic towards a deflationary conception of transcendental idealism.

Mulhall. Leaving now the issue of idealism, I turn to the private language argument discussed in the last chapter. The question I wish to re-consider is why this argument should not be transcendental, which must be answered for the direct and the indirect way of demonstrating the impossibility of private ostensive definition, respectively. I shall begin

19 A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant?


with the indirect way. Mulhall characterizes a ‘transcendental reading’ of Investigations, §293, as follows: Here is one way of reading this section. Wittgenstein is offering us a species of transcendental argument, which is designed to reveal a condition for the possibility of using a word as the name of an object (and so, one might think, a condition for the possibility of objecthood). If the word ‘beetle’ has a use in these people’s language, then that use cannot be dependent upon its referring to the contents of their boxes, for it would be impossible for them to distinguish successful from unsuccessful reference – cases in which the term picks out its real referent from those in which it picks out another thing, or indeed nothing whatever. That distinction can be drawn only in the public realm, in which the presence or absence of the referent can at least in principle be checked by others. Since sensations are not public in this sense, sensation-terms cannot intelligibly be regarded as the names of objects, which amounts to the claim that sensations cannot intelligibly be regarded as a species of (inner) object. (Mulhall 2007: 133f.)

Part of this argument could be articulated by identifying the following three propositions: 1. The word ‘beetle’ has a use as a name. 2. A word can be used as a name, only if it is possible to distinguish successful from unsuccessful reference. 3. It is possible to distinguish successful from unsuccessful reference, only if the presence or absence of the referent can be checked by others. Using these propositions as premises or assumptions, one could derive the conclusion that the presence or absence of a ‘beetle’ can be checked by others, and this could be made to conflict with the tenet of a private-language proponent that others cannot check upon its presence or absence, so that the assumption that the word ‘beetle’ has a use as a name could be refuted by reductio. This is not the argument Mulhall has in mind in the quoted passage, where he envisages a distinction between the word’s having a use in virtue of referring to the contents of the boxes and having a use, not necessarily as a name, in virtue of something else. He also expresses the idea that a necessary condition of ‘objecthood’ – of


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being ‘a something’ (PI §293c) – is that a word can be used as a name for it. This would be a further conditional proposition, though it is unclear how it could be stated with sense. What speaks against reconstructing the argument of §293 along these lines? Mulhall says that on this reconstruction, ‘it is hard to avoid thinking that we know exactly what it would be like if “beetle” really did refer to the contents of these boxes, and that is why we know that it cannot be done’ (Mulhall 2007: 134). I agree that we do not have an independent understanding of what it would mean to verify the presence of a sensation by introspection, and I agree that this idea is not rejected in consequence of seeing that it does not accord with transcendental conditions. However, referring to the supposition that the grammar of ‘beetle’ can be construed after the model of ‘object and name’, Mulhall asserts: ‘From its very first sentence … this “supposition” is empty, even if that emptiness becomes evident only belatedly; in that sense, we have no idea what we have been talking about in this section.’ (Mulhall 2007: 136) I think that Mulhall does not sufficiently distinguish between the model, which we understand, and what it is supposed to be a model for, which we do not understand. There is nothing wrong with the following reasoning: (1) Each speaker can say of that and only that speaker whose box he can inspect that he knows what that speaker means by ‘beetle’; (2) Each speaker can inspect his own box, but not the box of any other speaker; (3) Therefore, each speaker can say that he knows of himself what he means by ‘beetle’, but not of someone else. We understand that we are allowed to inspect our own box but not the boxes of others. What we are allowed to do in our own case we are not allowed to do in the other cases. We also know what it means to say that this is ‘my box’, and that another box is the box ‘of someone else’. It is only when an attempt is made of replacing the relevant terms by psychological equivalents that we get a paralogism:

19 A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant?


1. The existence and quality of sensations can be known if and only if they are felt to be there. 2. I can feel my sensations to be there, but not the sensations of other persons. 3. Therefore, I can know the existence and the quality of my sensations, but not those of other persons. This is fallacious due to an equivocation on the term ‘feel’ in the second premise. There are no psychological equivalents that would display the required first-third person symmetry. The point is well captured by John W. Cook: “I feel a slight pain in my knee” comes to the same as “There is a slight pain in my knee.” Such substitutions are not possible when “to feel” is used in the perceptual sense. “I feel a stone in my shoe” implies, but does not mean the same as, “There is a stone in my shoe.” It will make sense to say, “There was a stone in my shoe, but I didn’t feel it,” whereas it will not make sense to say, as an admission of ignorance, “There was a pain in my knee, but I didn’t feel it.” Sensation words cannot be the objects of verbs of perception in first-person sentences. (Cook 1965: 289)

The closest Kantian analogue to this line of criticism is the criticism of the paralogisms of rational psychology (cf. chapter 11). This criticism does not consist in giving a transcendental proof. The question of whether the argument of §258 can be stated deductively is often presented as a disagreement between a ‘substantial’, or ‘traditional’, and a ‘resolute’, or ‘new’ reading. The former couple of terms is not so much invoked by those commentators to whom they are taken to apply as by resolute readers who wish to clarify their own interpretation in opposition to them. Mulhall characterizes the resolute reading by saying that for such a reading ‘the true significance of §258 is given in the sections which frame it’ (Mulhall 2007: 97). It is easy to predict which sections an interpreter is going to quote after such an introduction, and Mulhall makes no exception: 257 and 261 (with the less typical addition of 260). I have already explained in what way I think this tends to confound the moral of §258 with a different line of argument in the private language


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discussion. Mulhall’s resolute reader takes a similar line of interpretation regarding §258 as with the ‘beetle in the box’ passage: What gives us as much as the idea that what [the diarist] is doing is using a sign, when all there is to his ‘use of “S” ’ is that he sometimes makes a noise or makes a mark? … According to the resolute reading, for us to engage in that kind of activity just is for us to behave in ways that have this kind of place in our lives, these kinds of connections with a vast range of other things we say and do. Hence, §258 does not show us that something (noting the occurrence of our pains) is logically impossible in the kind of context the diarist stipulates; it shows us that, although we thought that we were imagining someone noting the occurrence of his sensations, we were not imagining anything – any specific human activity – at all. (Mulhall 2007: 99)

The conception opposed by Mulhall is that §258 would prove something to be nonsensical by making one deductive step after the other to eventually induce a contradiction. For this to be possible, each proposition, taken in isolation, would have to be materially either true or false and thus have sense; only if asserted together would there ensue a contradiction and thus ‘nonsense’. I agree that it would be misleading to put §258 into such a form. The resolute reader is right to note that something that is false can, for the sake of argument, be treated as if it were true, while something that makes no sense cannot be treated as if it were to make sense. The weakness of the interpretation given in the quotation is that it loses contact with the fact that the diarist imagines himself to give a private analogue of ostensive definition. Mulhall talks carelessly about ‘noting the occurrence of his sensations’, and he is right insofar as what exactly the diarist imagines himself to be doing plays no role in this account. It plays no role because it is once more the indirect way of exhibiting the impossibility of private ostensive definition that is invoked, while the direct way remains unaccounted for.

Hymers. Reversing the focus of the comparison between Kant and Wittgenstein, some commentators have claimed that Kant’s Refutation anticipates central elements of Wittgenstein’s private language discussion

19 A Prussian Wittgenstein and a Viennese Kant?


(cf. Gochnauer 1974: 201f.). The most elaborate interpretation of this kind is given in an article by Michael Hymers, which I shall be using for exposition. Hymers identifies the empirically determined consciousness of one’s own existence in time with the ordering of representations in inner experience: ‘To be conscious of my existence as determined in time is to be aware of a determinate order of my conscious states.’ (Hymers 1997: 445) He paraphrases what he takes to be Kant’s view by saying that ‘if I am conscious of my representations and apprehend them as mine, I am conscious, not just of a determinate order of perception, but of my existence in time’ (Hymers 1997: 445). Hymers leaves these welltrodden paths when he writes: Just as Wittgenstein argues that my use of sensation-terms such as ‘pain’ is meaningful only insofar as that use can be justified by reference to an independent standard of use that can be understood by others, so Kant argues that my judgements about the temporal ordering of my conscious states are meaningful only insofar as they can be justified by reference to an independent temporal standard. (Hymers 1997: 450)

This argument is modeled on Wittgenstein’s remark on the diarist, whose last sentence Hymers quotes: ‘One would like to say: whatever is going to seem correct to me is correct. And that only means that here we can’t talk about “correct”.’ (PI §258; Hymers 1997: 452) Since Hymers thinks that Kant’s Refutation is concerned with the ordering of sensible states (designated by ‘S’), he takes Kant to raise an issue about the correctness of an ordering: If I cannot be wrong, I cannot be right either. So, given that there is a correct ordering of S1 … Sn , there must be a standard other than an ordering of my states, which determines the ordering of S1 … Sn [as the correct one]. “Justification”, as Wittgenstein says, “consists in appealing to something independent” (PI §265). The only remaining possibility amongst things in perception is the existence of enduring spatio-temporal objects. (Hymers 1997: 451)

To make this more vivid, Hymers invites us to imagine a clock in the corner of one’s visual field. The problem is that this ‘private clock itself


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depends on an ordering of my representations’ and does not allow an independent check (Hymers 1997: 451).7 I must say that I am convinced neither by the parallel nor by the argument. Hymers does not pay sufficient attention to the respects in which the situation of the problematic idealist is different from that of Wittgenstein’s diarist. Problematic idealism is not a view about what it logically makes sense to say (cf. chapter 7). The uncertainty of outer appearances to which the idealist is led by the fourth A-paralogism applies generally, to any thing or event in space in equal measure. It has no differential effects on specific beliefs, such as that S1 happened before S2 , or the other way around. The idealist does not deny that sensible impressions occur independently of our will; nor that we can make the inference that they are caused by objects independent of us; nor does he say that we cannot make the inference that the objects themselves are as they appear to us. He insists that we have insufficient reason to rely on these inferences, as they are inferences from given effects to determinate causes, not that there is an incoherence involved in them. Accordingly, when pressed on what it is that makes the remembered order correct, he will say that this is how his senses represent things to be, and that, as a matter of fact, they do not represent things to be in incoherent ways. That his senses represent things to be in that way is not of his making, and thus he can appeal to them as an independent authority. The fact that the problematic idealist thinks that this authority is too weak to secure real knowledge about things in space does not undermine the possibility of such an appeal. In this respect, Wittgenstein’s diarist is different: he operates entirely within the subjective; that is part of the very task of which his example is the literary expression. The figure of the diarist is a philosophical fiction, while the idealist’s perceiver is an everyman viewed through the lens of an indirect theory of perception. The idealist claims that his theory applies to our actual situation; that we are really unconsciously relying on problematic inferences. The reason why Hymers overestimates the force of 7 The

same point about Kant’s Refutation is made in an earlier paper by Dennis Senchuk, who also invites his readers to imagine a clock and quotes the same sentence from the Investigations: ‘… justification consists in appealing to something independent’ (Senchuk 1981: 408).

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Investigations, §258, is, presumably, that he takes the problematic idealist’s affirmation that impressions are the only things that we immediately perceive as committing him to ‘seems’ and ‘appearance’ talk. As I see it, the idealist is offering a theory of the causal formation of our empirical beliefs; he does not claim that we cannot logically distinguish between how things seem to us and how we (say that we) perceive them. He does reject our objective ways of talking, but does so by raising an epistemological problem that, he thinks, is more fundamental than any of the qualms we register by resorting to ‘seems’ talk. Thus, I do not think that Kant argues in the way Hymers suggests, and if he were to, it would not be effective (cf. chapter 10). Failing to attend to the differences between the contexts easily leads one to overestimate the scope of the argument from Investigations, §258. It cannot be unproblematically directed against empiricist and Cartesian conceptions of experience, as this depends on further assumptions which the empiricist and the Cartesian need not make.

Stroud. In Kant, transcendental logic is employed to dispel the logic of illusion by factoring in the relation to objects of experience (cf. Wolff 1984: 191–193). In Wittgenstein, a grammatical illusion is often dispelled by factoring in the relation to a purpose, or the question of purpose, as in his discussion of private ostensive definition. One might say that the logic of language-games is a transcendental logic in an entirely different format. But it would be to seriously misconstrue this format by presenting it as invoking ‘transcendental conditions’ such as that distinguishing successful and unsuccessful reference is possible only if it is verifiable by others. That would be not only questionable as an interpretation but also plainly ineffective, as it assumes what should be shown. The question is precisely whether there could be reference that is not verifiable by others. It also forgets that the diarist can just as well infer that others cannot understand ‘S’, as we could infer from the premises (i) to (iii) given in the subsection on Mulhall that the presence or absence of the referent must be verifiable by others. There need be no formal error


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in his argument.8 The crux apparently lies in the terms invoked, whether they are really doing the work they seem to do, and for that there is no general mark, no ‘condition’. This relates back to the first prong of my answer, given at the beginning of this chapter, to the question of how Wittgenstein relates to Kantian transcendentalism. The same, or at least a closely related, point has recently been made by Oskari Kuusela. Kuusela identifies a common gist in the following three remarks by Wittgenstein: “If humans were not in general agreed about the colour of things, if cases of disagreement [Unstimmigkeiten] were not exceptional, then our concept of colour could not exist.” No: – our concept would not exist. (Z §351, transl. alt.; cf. vW 136: 121b, 16 January 1948) “If we don’t agree in/on certain things, we cannot argue” – Rather: without this agreement we simply don’t call it arguing. (vW 118: 22r, 27 August 1937) If someone says, “If our language had not this grammar, it could not express these facts” – it should be asked what “could” means here. (PI §497b)

The common tenor, Kuusela suggests, can be stated as follows: ‘Insofar as something is an essential feature of a language-game, the feature cannot be appealed to as a condition of the possibility of the game, because we have no grasp of what is to be explained independently of the feature that was meant to explain it.’ (Kuusela 2019: 210) I take this to be the same negative point as the one made at the beginning of this chapter, namely that a ‘condition’ that is not logically detachable from the conditioned cannot count as a transcendental condition. There is, however, still a distinction to be drawn within a broader characterization of conditions that are satisfied whenever judgements of a certain kind are made and understood, a characterization that allows for contingent propositions. The distinction corresponds to two different types of ‘grammatical’, or ‘logical’, propositions in the later Wittgenstein, only one of which is ‘not logically detachable from the conditioned’ in the sense earlier intended. 8 See

the ‘standard’ account of a private language given in the last chapter.

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In the remainder, I shall no longer pursue the question of whether there could be transcendental arguments in Wittgenstein, but rather whether there could be propositions with a transcendental status and, more determinately, whether propositions that stand fast for us could have that status. This would engender a more mundane form of transcendentalism if any form at all, one that would abandon Kant’s apriorism and the project of a Deduction. It means resorting to the domain of all that is commonly treated as a matter of course. These things are not noted for their self-evidence and are never invoked in everyday or scientific reasoning. Everybody can list a considerable number of these truisms from scratch, or, alternatively, find them by considering a certain human activity and asking what it tacitly relies upon: I do not explicitly learn the propositions that stand fast for me. I can discover them subsequently like the axis around which a body rotates. This axis is not fixed in the sense that anything holds it fast, but the movement around it determines its immobility. (OC §152)

What stands fast for us is not firm in itself, but necessarily unmoving given something else that is not. Making a claim, giving evidence, becoming doubtful about it, withdrawing it, and so on, is what is here metaphorically referred to as the ‘movement’ (cf. OC §153). Both remarks expand on Wittgenstein’s relational conception of a ‘foundation’, ‘ground’, or ‘basis’, which is a recurrent theme in On Certainty. The theme reaches its full expression when Wittgenstein talks of the ‘rock bottom of my convictions’ and then adds: ‘And one might almost say that these foundation-walls are carried by the whole house.’ (OC §248) This is a reversal of the common picture of something’s having ‘foundations’. The rock bottom of our convictions is something ‘immanent in our practices’, as Meredith Williams says; it cannot be appealed to as something that grounds it (Williams 1990: 83). The focus of On Certainty and related writings lies in doxastic concepts such as ‘belief ’ and ‘certainty’, but also in conceivable error and doubt (cf., e.g. OC §54, §138b, §558). An error about an ordinary knowledge claim is readily imaginable, and as momentous as it might be, it will never undermine judgement itself. This is different in the case of an error


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concerning at least some propositions that stand fast for us. Such an error is not impossible in a way that would guarantee the truth of what we treat as unrevisable; rather, a situation in which it could be found to be false cannot be coherently described. This is what Stroud has called invulnerability:9 We can … reflect in a broadly Kantian spirit … on what must be so, how we must be able to think, and what we must be able to do, in order to think of anyone as possessing … thoughts and experiences [about an independent world]. That is the kind of reflection that I think promises to reveal a special role or position for certain thoughts or beliefs in our conception of a world, or a certain kind of philosophical invulnerability for some of them[.] (Stroud 1999: 213)

The idea of invulnerability is here expressed conditionally: if we can attribute belief that things are thus-and-so to people, only if we think that they are thus-and-so, then, having found that people believe it, we cannot discover that it is false that thus-and-so (cf. Stroud 1994: 170). Stroud does not argue, in this passage, that there are such invulnerable beliefs; he only explains what they are, if they exist. This may also be thought to be Wittgenstein’s point, when he asks: ‘Supposing it wasn’t true that the earth had already existed long before I was born – how should we imagine the mistake being discovered?’ (OC §301, cf. §32) But the idea expressed here is more likely a related one, one that implies invulnerability. This other idea can be put in the form of the question: ‘How could the evidence that the earth existed long before my birth be invalidated without invalidating all evidence for any determinate view about the duration of the earth’s existence?’ Statements of this kind can be found throughout Wittgenstein’s last writings: There seem to be propositions that have the character of experiential propositions, but whose truth is for me unassailable. That is to say, if I assume that they are false, I must mistrust all my judgements. (LW II: 79 = RC III, §348; cf. OC §494, §558, §672)

9 Also

‘transcendental invulnerability’ (Stroud 1994: 173).

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Other than PI-grammatical propositions, these propositions can be assumed to be false (cf. chapter 1). Assuming their falsity serves to bring out what Stroud calls their indispensability. Indispensability consists in the status of a thought’s or belief ’s being necessary for having any beliefs about a given domain of objects at all: ‘The indispensability of a thought or belief implies what I am calling invulnerability. A belief ’s being required in order to have any thoughts or beliefs about a world at all implies the impossibility of our finding that belief to be false if held.’ (Stroud 1999: 216) This is a ‘transcendental status’, Stroud suggests, in a broadly Kantian sense (Stroud 1999: 207). It should be noted that, although Stroud associates his approach with the ‘more modest project’ of a ‘connective analysis’, he does so only qualifiedly (Stroud 1994: 166). He does not view himself as merely retracing the connections between conceptual capacities and beliefs. He criticizes Strawson, who coined the term ‘connective analysis’, for ‘retreating so far and so quickly’ in reaction to the kind of criticism Stroud himself has formulated in ‘Transcendental Arguments’ (Stroud 2000a: xvi; Strawson 1985: 25). His approach is not guided by the thought that ‘the most we can see to be necessarily connected with our thinking in a certain way [is] only our having to think or believe that certain other things are true, and not the actual truth of those other things’, which he calls a ‘surely plausible (even if ultimately misguided) response’ to the challenge of ‘Transcendental Arguments’ (Stroud 1994: 162f.). If this were to be Stroud’s view, he would not spend so much time emphasizing that the incoherence of finding an invulnerable belief to be false is similar to the incoherence of making an utterance like ‘I believe that it is raining, and it is not raining’ (cf. Stroud 1994: 170–176). The point of invulnerability is not that of a bit of ‘connective analysis’ on the psychological side of the divide; its point is that if this is not a truth, that would for us be the end of all truth and error. The invulnerability of a belief does make an inroad into the other, non-psychological, side of the divide, though without implying that the corresponding proposition is necessarily true. There is an unmistakable irony in the suggestion that transcendentalism after Wittgenstein should occupy itself with truisms, such as: ‘I know that here is a hand’, ‘I know that the earth as existed long before


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my birth’, ‘I know that my name is N. N.’, and so on. Of all things, the most profaned stage of the Wittgensteinian idea that there are uses of sentences that appear to state a fact but really have a logical standing should be the last resort of transcendentalism! Most propositions that stand fast for us are particular, rather than universal. Meredith Williams is right that not all Moorean propositions are plausibly viewed as successors of transcendental conditions. Their pluralism does not even allow us to raise the question of their completeness intelligibly so as to give rise to something like the approach that is seen in Kant’s Transcendental Deduction. This is a further reason for her to deny that the Wittgenstein of On Certainty is a transcendental philosopher (cf. Williams 1990: 77, 85). To me, it seems more reasonable to reject this last requirement as a condition for attributing transcendentalism to a philosopher of the twentieth century, as completeness of conditions is, itself, too much of a problem. The question of whether there is transcendentalism in Wittgenstein’s last writings is dependent on the standards that one accepts for answering it. Although a matter of course, it needs emphasizing, since it is easy to get the impression that things have often gone the other way around, that standards have been adopted in view of desired results. If classification is our interest, it is unlikely that much agreement will be attained. What does seem clear is that if the conception under consideration is viewed as a type of transcendentalism (as I think it should be), then it is far from matching the philosophical attractiveness and beauty of the Kantian model. In its lack of systematicity and unclarity about its objective, it rather resembles the state of philosophy which Kant described as a ‘groping about’, rather than that of having entered upon ‘the secure course of a science’ (B vii).


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A Abduction/abductive 81, 82, 84 See also hypothesis Absurd/absurdity vi, 12, 25, 67, 82, 138, 168, 206, 278, 279 Aesthetic 31, 32, 198 Affection 75, 76, 150, 264 empirical ~ 75, 76 noumenal ~ 76 Aidun, Debra 9, 15, 16 Allais, Lucy 70, 72, 73, 77–80, 83–85, 124, 260, 266, 272 Allison, Henry E. 27, 54, 58, 62, 70, 73, 75, 76, 90, 112, 113, 115–117, 125, 142, 145–147, 237, 238, 252, 262, 263, 265, 266, 277, 303, 305 Alquié, Ferdinand 103, 104, 106 Ameriks, Karl 268 Analysis 35, 40, 179, 222 conceptual ~ 18, 38, 274 © The Author(s) 2020 B. Ritter, Kant and Post-Tractarian Wittgenstein, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44634-5

connective ~ 317 phenomenological ~ 38 Analytic(al) viii, 27, 84, 146, 298 ~ entailment/implication 82, 84 ~ judgement 12, 13, 27 Analyticity 14, 138 Anscombe, G. E. M. 29, 178, 179, 203, 236 Antinomial conflict 2, 56 first ~ 2, 54, 57, 58, 61–64, 66, 67, 279, 304 Antinomy of pure reason 57, 62 Apagogic vs. ostensive proof 119 A posteriori viii, 110, 249, 301 Appearance vi, vii, 3, 46, 47, 49, 54, 60, 62, 69–76, 78, 81–83, 91, 117, 142, 150, 230, 234, 237–239, 241, 242, 244–246, 248, 253, 265–267, 269, 272–274, 298, 302 335



Appearance (cont.) outer ~ 75, 116, 123, 147, 189 synthesis of ~s 62, 270, 271 Apperception v, 47, 147, 150, 157, 189, 193, 200, 202, 205, 206 unity of ~ 27, 148, 247, 248, 267, 271 Apprehension 237, 238, 266, 268 synthesis of ~ 263, 268, 272 A priori 47, 76, 114, 118, 143, 203, 247, 248, 255, 258, 259, 261, 263, 297, 302 ~ semantics 64 ~ synthetic judgement 27 Apriority viii, 306 Aquila, Richard 124 Arbitrary/arbitrariness 24, 25, 237, 265 See also fourth A-paralogism Argument for the uncertainty of outer appearances 93–95, 106, 109, 110, 114, 122, 123, 125–127, 135, 141, 145, 150, 151, 168, 312 Assertible content 6 Assertion 11, 17, 94, 213, 222 Asymmetry between first and third person 161, 163, 309 Austin, J. L. 31, 214, 271

Bates, Stanley 31 Baumgarten, Alexander 73, 74 Baumgärtner, Jörg 236, 265 Baum, Manfred 261, 271, 272 Beck, L. W. 237, 238, 241, 242 Beetle in the box 117, 285, 293, 294, 307, 308, 310 Behaviour 9, 45, 163, 166, 216, 217, 294, 299 Behaviourism 168 Belief 99–101, 103, 104, 125, 136, 212, 216, 219–221, 242, 257, 269, 292, 305, 312, 313, 315–317 abandon/expell from our ~ 101, 102, 104 bracket ~ 104 Berkeleian 75, 92 Berkeley, George vi, 75, 155 Bloor, David 29, 30 Body (human) 95, 127, 133, 137, 165–167, 169–171, 176, 177, 184, 187, 191, 199, 202, 217 real distinction between mind and ~ 95, 109, 111, 176 Body-in-a-vat scenario 136 Body (physical) 95, 96, 196, 251 Brand, Miles 254 Broughton, Janet 104, 107

B Bader, Ralf M. 125 Baker, Gordon 9, 14–16, 18 Bakhurst, David 178, 179, 181, 187 Baldwin, Thomas 210

C Campbell, John 179 Caranti, Luigi 58, 112, 119, 135 Carnapian 9 Carnap, Rudolf 35 Cassam, Quassim 111, 274


Category 132, 245–248, 261, 269, 274 ~ of causality 72, 158, 222, 245, 246, 248, 253, 262, 270, 274, 302 pure/unschematized ~ 245, 246, 253, 270 See also category of causality Causality 249, 250, 253 law of ~ 237, 238, 244, 246, 247, 298 Causation 75, 80, 153, 243, 249–251, 253–255 adequacy principle of ~ 107–109 intelligible/nonsensible/noumenal ~ vi, 71, 72, 75, 76, 80 sequential conception of ~ 249 simultaneous conception of ~ 252–254 Cavell, Stanley 7, 16, 23, 31, 32, 38, 48, 49, 195, 213–215, 221, 278, 292 Cerbone, David R. 302–305 Certainty 110, 115, 144, 210, 215, 216, 218–220, 281, 315 Chignell, Andrew 125 Child, William 181, 184, 185 Clemenson, David 107, 126 Cognition 27, 55, 56, 72, 92, 118, 124, 137, 145–149, 204, 205, 229, 259, 261, 263, 267, 268, 273, 276, 277 a priori ~ 259, 261 empirical/experiential ~ 229, 235, 237, 244, 277 faculty of ~ 48, 54, 118 human ~ viii, 146, 191, 305


Coliva, Annalisa 179 Colour 6, 10, 26, 27, 46, 78, 110, 226, 288, 314 ‘~’ as a formal/logical concept 222, 224, 245 system of ~s 26, 27, 301, 302 Common-sense man 20, 154 Common-sense philosopher 154 Communicability 47, 276 Communication 41, 51, 206, 214, 299, 300 Conceivable/conceivability 23, 25, 169, 230, 257, 258, 278, 280, 293 Conceptual scheme 103, 112, 113, 300, 301, 305 Conditions of meaning 20, 303–305 Constitution 20, 51, 260 ~ of experience 273, 274 Content 10, 17, 72, 118, 190, 191, 194, 229, 294, 300, 301 inexpressible ~ 26, 277 no/devoid of ~ 10, 191, 225, 305 representational ~ 108, 264 theory of ~ 64 Contradiction 6, 113, 206, 221, 234, 241, 310 Contradictory opposite(s)/opposition 59–61, 120 Convention 28–30 Conventionalism 24, 28 Cook, John W. 309 Criterial question 180 Criterion/criteria ~ of correctness 291 ~ for personal identity 175, 190



Criterion/criteria 7, 50, 169, 170, 178, 184, 187, 221, 276, 290, 291 Curley, Edwin M. 107 Curtius, Robert 248

D Definition ~ of the categories 245, 246 ~ of experience 263, 264 ~ of a judgement 45 ostensive ~ 35, 287, 310 Definition 27, 43, 60, 61, 64, 143, 153, 168, 287–290 Deflation/deflationary/deflationism vii, 71, 78, 85, 146, 233, 306 Descartes, René 89, 93–97, 99–110, 114, 115, 125, 126, 128, 131, 135, 145, 150, 155, 158, 175–177, 211, 212, 214, 219–221 Determinable and determinate 10 Dewey, John viii Diamond, Cora 20, 103 Dicker, Georges 130 Dlugos, Peter 106 Dogmatic/dogmatism 2, 19, 41, 60, 80, 143, 306 Dyck, Corey 27, 53, 145, 149, 150 Dynamical connection of cause and effect 250, 251, 254

E Elementary proposition 35 Empirical proposition 5, 14, 206, 213

Emptiness/empty 11, 64, 67, 172, 190, 191, 245, 266, 274, 298, 302, 304, 305, 308 Essence/essential 29, 30, 48, 72–74, 80, 95, 111, 127, 166, 167, 172, 235, 248, 268, 281, 314 Euclidian geometry 306 Evans, Gareth 157, 178–180, 183, 184, 187 Event 79, 118, 171, 186, 223, 224, 234, 239, 240, 242, 243, 252–255, 312 ~ intuition/intuition of ~ s 240, 242, 243 objective ~ 235, 242 Evidence 12, 101, 163, 164, 168, 184, 185, 210, 211, 315, 316 Existence of the subject /one’s own/my own existence 13 Existence of the subject/one’s own/my own existence 88, 92, 96, 114, 116, 119, 120, 122, 124, 126, 128–130, 134, 136–138, 147, 149, 207 Existence of things in themselves/supersensible entities/a noumenal world 75, 76, 80, 81, 83, 300 Existence of things outside us/of material/corporeal objects 87–89, 92, 93, 95, 107–110, 112, 113, 122, 123, 126, 134, 135, 138, 139, 147, 211, 217, 221, 223, 311 Existential proposition 10, 13, 81–84, 87, 226 Explanans and explanandum 22, 242, 243


Expressibility condition 51, 52, 205, 277 Expressivist 200 External and internal standpoints 17

F First Meditation 94, 99, 101, 102, 104–106, 135, 214, 219 Fichant, Michel 64 First-personal 42, 117, 164 Formal/logical concept 158, 222–226, 245, 247 Fodor, J. A. 31 Form and matter 272, 274 Form of life 301 Förster, Eckart 112, 275, 276 Frankfurt, Harry G. 104, 105 Franks, Paul 112 Frege, Gottlob 164 Freud, Sigmund 33, 39 Fromm, Susanne 161, 264, 297 Forster, Michael N. 24–26, 43–45

G Geometrical and physical eye 167, 169, 170 Glock, Hans-Johann 27, 178, 179, 181, 187, 297 Gochnauer, Miron 311 God 54, 103, 106, 107, 109, 110, 115, 126, 128, 144, 145, 196, 293 God’s eye point of view 144 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 38


Grammar 65, 163, 173, 177, 185, 223, 276, 287, 294, 308, 314 Grammatical 5, 8, 9, 15, 17, 24, 36, 154, 179, 180, 198, 280, 287 PI-~ proposition 12, 16, 18, 26, 27, 317 ~ proposition 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11–18, 212, 213, 314 ~ rule 9, 15–17, 65 Grier, Michelle 55, 56, 142, 148 Ground 47, 50, 72, 75, 76, 79, 81, 92, 99, 119, 189, 201, 261, 315 intellectual/non-sensible ~ 75 ~ of determination 124, 129, 130 transcendental ~ 141, 150, 151 Guéroult, Martial 104, 106 Guyer, Paul 27, 125, 129–133, 262, 265, 270, 271, 273

H Hacker, P. M. S. v, 9, 14–16, 18, 21, 41, 42, 117, 157, 161, 169, 178–183, 187, 193, 194, 199–207, 224, 275–277, 279, 286, 297 Haller, Rudolf 297 Hanks, Peter 6 Hegel, G. F. W. 301 Heidemann, Dietmar H. 125 Henrich, Dieter 262, 273 Hidden 33–35, 39, 40, 72, 80 Hill, James 105, 220 Hinske, Norbert 149 Hookway, Christopher 111



Huemer, Michael 252 Human being 43, 46, 50, 144, 165, 210, 286, 290 Hume, David 96, 97, 175, 234, 249, 252 Humility 79, 146, 209 Hutto, Daniel D. 297 Hyman, John 108, 110 Hymers, Michael 275, 310, 312, 313 Hypostatization 149, 191 See also abduction Hypothesis 35, 81, 162, 164, 260, 269, 271 evil demon ~ 113, 114, 125, 126 transcendental ~ 81, 83 Hypothetical viii, 22, 34, 125 Hypothetical syllogism 135, 147, 235, 260, 273 I Idealism dogmatic ~ 141, 212 empirical ~ ix, 19, 26, 28, 116, 125, 141 linguistic ~ 29, 30 problematic ~ 82, 89–97, 106, 110, 111, 114, 119, 122–125, 127, 128, 134, 135, 141, 142, 145, 146, 150, 151, 153, 157, 167, 168, 212, 264, 312 See also transcendental idealism Idealism v–vii, 2, 19, 20, 24–26, 30, 77, 87, 89, 92, 125, 138, 139, 153–157, 159, 168, 193, 210, 211, 230, 302, 303 dogmatic ~ 92 Identification 165, 170, 178, 183, 184, 215, 290

Illusion Cartesian ~ 175 grammatical ~ 313 transcendental ~ 2, 53, 54, 56, 57, 60, 61, 63, 90, 119, 141, 146–150, 167, 191, 304 ~ of understanding 37–40 Illusion 1, 40, 41, 49, 53, 60, 171, 176, 191, 313 Imagination 46, 73, 76, 124, 161, 237, 247, 268, 272 power of (the) ~ 43, 47, 269 synthesis of the ~ 248, 268 Immunity to error through misidentification 157, 178, 179, 183, 184, 186 Indispensability and invulnerability 316, 317 Indubitability/indubitable 94, 111, 114, 116, 117, 157, 207 Inference explanatory ~ 81, 83, 264 ~ to external/outer/material objects 96, 97, 125 ~ from given effects to determined causes 92, 145, 312 Inference vii, 82–85, 92, 119, 202, 219, 225, 246, 261, 285, 312 Infinite 58–63, 65, 144, 251 ~ totality 66, 67 Infinity of space/time 65, 66 ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ 88, 89, 123, 138 Inner experience 88, 92, 113, 117, 120, 123, 124, 126–129, 132, 135, 137, 278, 311 Inner/intrinsic properties/natures 74, 81–84, 146 Introspection 116, 117, 293, 308


Intuition 131, 132, 136, 149, 240, 243, 245, 248, 259, 261, 263, 264, 272, 274, 277, 290 empirical ~ 118, 124, 131, 162, 167, 236–239, 241, 242, 244, 265–270, 273 inner ~/~ in me 129, 130, 137 outer ~ 134, 136, 138 sensible/sensory ~ 124, 189, 236, 261, 263, 268 ‘I think’/‘I am conscious’ 190, 197, 201, 203–205, 207, 299 ‘I’ used as object and as subject 157, 171, 176–178, 184, 186 J Jacobi, Friedrich H. 71, 72, 75, 76 Jacobi’s dilemma 74, 75, 79, 80, 85 Jacquette, Dale 297 K Kambouchner, Denis 102, 104 Kinaesthetic 169, 184 Kitcher, Patricia 161 Knowledge ~ claim 64, 215, 217, 315 empirical/experiential ~ 229, 242, 269 ~ and meaning 162, 164 object of (possible) ~ 145, 149, 160, 305 Knowledge 39, 48, 51, 56, 77, 93, 95, 108–110, 115–117, 144, 145, 156, 160, 164, 183, 184, 191, 200–202, 214, 268, 304, 312


Kotzin, Rhoda H. 236, 265, 266 Kuusela, Oskari 314 L Langton, Rae 70, 73, 74, 80, 83 Language-game 8, 24, 28, 37, 49, 53, 200, 218, 230, 294, 313, 314 manometer ~ 292, 293 the notion of a ‘~’ 36, 37 Lear, Jonathan 275, 298–303 Lehmann, Gerhard 44 Life 24, 28, 36, 66, 101, 302, 310 Limit 20, 21, 26, 49, 300 ~s vs. limitations 49 Locke, John 85 Logical concept see Formal concept Logical possibility 20, 23 Longuenesse, Béatrice 178 Loparic, Zeljko 57–61, 64 M Malcolm, Norman 195, 210, 279 Mates, Benson 31 Mathematical proposition 13, 14, 18, 104, 219, 220 Matter 131, 136, 190, 229, 266, 271 Maxim 54–56, 114 ~ P1 55, 57, 147 McDowell, John vi, vii, 160, 187, 277, 303 McGinn, Marie 210, 213, 217, 285, 286 McGuinness, Brian 155 Meditator 94, 95, 99, 100, 103–106, 115, 219, 220 Metaphysical doubt 101, 102, 105, 106, 158, 214, 217, 220



Metaphysical error 55, 159 Metaphysical proposition 5, 7, 8, 64 Metaphysics v, vi, viii, 2, 41, 42, 49, 53, 64, 73, 259, 261 Methodical doubt/method of doubt 99, 125, 213 Modus ponens 81, 135, 238, 241, 279 Modus tollens 119, 120, 212 Monk, Ray 189 See also propositions that stand fast for us Moorean propositions 213, 214, 217, 218, 222, 318 Moore, A. W. 20, 25, 49, 65, 297 Moore, G. E. 154, 186, 197, 210–212, 225 Moran, Richard 103, 178 Mosser, Kurt 297 Motor/street roller 282, 284, 285, 290 Mulhall, Stephen 20–23, 27, 28, 117, 278, 279, 284, 292, 294, 306–310, 313 N Nagel, Thomas 126, 144, 302–305 Necessary truth 6, 14–16 Negation 6, 11, 13, 17, 59–61, 226 Negative judgement/proposition 12, 58, 60 Newman, Lex 108 Noë, Alva 201, 202, 276 Nonsense/nonsensical 6, 7, 9, 21, 22, 26, 38, 64–67, 113, 180, 191, 222, 225, 227, 281, 304, 305, 310 Noumenalism 72, 78, 80

O Objective reality/validity vii, 62, 87, 261, 262, 298 Outer sense 47, 74, 119, 120, 123, 124, 127, 137, 138, 145, 147, 149, 202, 243 Owner/ownership 93, 123, 126– 128, 130, 194–197, 204, 279–281 P Pain 160, 162–165, 177, 180, 184, 185, 190, 199, 200, 206, 207, 276, 277, 281, 282, 286, 287, 293, 294, 309–311 Paralogism 143, 148–151, 168, 175, 308, 309 fourth A-paralogism 93, 94, 111, 116, 119, 132, 141, 147, 149–151, 167, 312 Pears, David 155, 170, 194, 279, 283, 291 Peirce, Charles S. 81 Perception vii, 74, 92, 94, 96, 97, 103, 106–109, 115, 117, 124, 127, 145, 147–149, 157, 161, 166, 170, 183, 189, 196, 199, 203–205, 207, 229, 230, 235–243, 261, 263, 264, 266–270 Kant’s conception/notion of ~ v, 162, 235, 236, 268, 271 object of ~ 106, 108, 236, 265–267, 269, 270 synthesis of ~s viii, 229, 263, 273 Pereboom, Derk 270 Perler, Dominik 108


Permanent/persistent 126, 128, 129, 131 something ~ in perception 128, 130–132, 134, 135 Personal experience 42, 159, 164, 168, 197, 271 Phenomenalism/phenomenalist v, 70–72, 77, 78 Phenomenology viii, 38 Philosophy 5, 6, 31, 33, 34, 38–40, 74, 88, 110, 146, 154, 159, 223, 301, 318 analytic ~ v, 112, 203 critical ~ 69, 77, 85, 297 Kant’s ~ 41, 42, 51, 76, 146, 162, 271, 276, 277 Kant’s ~ 229 ordinary language ~ 32, 36 Wittgenstein’s ~ vi, x, 2, 33, 35, 38, 40, 209 Physical object ‘~’ as a formal concept/variable 222–226 ‘There are ~s’ 11, 222, 225–227 Physical object 153, 155, 215, 222, 223, 227 Pinder, Tillmann 44 Possible experience/possibility of experience viii, 27, 111, 142, 164, 230, 234, 254, 257, 258, 260, 261, 263, 305 Powell, Thomas C. 147, 148 Prauss, Gerold vi, 70, 72–76, 117, 147, 264, 265, 303, 305


Primary and secondary use 36 Prior, Arthur N. 10 Pritchard, Duncan 212, 225 Privacy of ownership 280 Private 32, 126, 155, 168, 201, 202, 264, 269, 287, 293, 311 ~ language 161, 202, 230, 278, 280, 281, 286, 287, 307, 314 ~ language argument/discussion 11, 138, 161, 230, 275–278, 298, 306, 310 ~ ostensive definition 201, 278, 282, 284–290, 294, 306, 310, 313 ~ sensation 278, 279, 281, 294, 295 progress in indefinitum 63, 65 Propositional variable 10 Propositions/things that stand fast for us viii, 12, 99, 209, 213, 216, 221, 298, 315, 316, 318 Psychoanalysis 33, 39, 40 See also category Pure concept of the understanding 51, 247 Putnam, Hilary 136, 144 R Rational cosmology 2, 54, 56, 58 Rational psychology 54, 150, 309 See also transcendental realism Realism/realist 19, 20, 30, 77, 80, 85, 139, 144, 153–155, 212, 222 empirical ~ 80, 138, 142



Reductio ad absurdum 66, 278, 279, 307 Refutation of Idealism 77, 87–89, 91–94, 112–129, 131, 132, 135–137, 139, 151, 168, 194, 207, 209, 211, 212, 230, 239, 273, 275, 298, 310, 312 Relativism 24 Res cogitans 34, 186, 191 Resolute vs. substantial reading 309, 310 Ritter, Bernhard 111, 274 Rorty, Richard 106, 111 Rosefeldt, Tobias 70, 73, 78, 79 Rosenberg, Jay 243, 253

S ‘S’ 279–281, 286, 287, 289–291, 293, 310, 311, 313 Sceptical 7, 89, 100, 106, 123, 211, 212, 216, 219, 220, 277 ~ argument 104, 216, 217, 219, 221 ~ doubt 123, 125, 157, 210, 213, 217, 221 ~ hypothesis 7, 216 ~ method (in Kant) 58, 219 ~ scenario 100, 113, 136, 155, 221 Scepticism 89, 97, 99, 106, 114, 123, 125, 135, 138, 153, 155, 156, 158, 162, 209, 210 external world ~/~ about things in space 124, 125, 155, 211 First-Meditation ~ 89, 114, 121, 123, 125, 204 other minds ~ 154, 155, 162, 163, 167

Schema 45, 230, 234, 245, 247, 248, 253, 270, 274, 302 ~ of causality/causation 234, 238, 239, 241, 244, 245, 248, 249, 252, 255 Schmid, Carl C. E. 203 Schopenhauer, Arthur 199, 221 Schroeder, Severin 18, 279, 281 Schulte, Joachim 28, 36, 37, 156, 189, 199, 280 Schulting, Dennis 27 Science 38, 39, 84, 99, 119, 306, 318 natural ~ 38, 99 transcendental ~ 41 Second Analogy 77, 118, 229, 230, 233–237, 243, 249, 257, 268 See also apperception Self as object and as subject (in Kant) 157, 189, 190 Self-consciousness v, 133, 183, 200–202 apperceptive ~ 126, 133, 149, 157, 190, 203, 204, 206, 207 empirical ~ 139, 204, 207 Self-knowledge 38, 115, 116, 124 Senchuk, Dennis 312 Sense-datum 138, 139, 153, 155, 264, 272 Sensibility 64, 71, 72, 76, 109, 142, 145, 200, 201, 215, 245, 248, 269, 273, 301, 305 forms of ~ 252, 264, 266 Shoemaker, Sidney 178 Sluga, Hans 179 Solipsism/solipsistic 19–21, 23, 121, 138, 139, 154–157, 159, 160,


163–173, 176, 193, 194, 197, 198, 210, 230 Soul 7, 137, 148, 149, 191, 201, 202, 277 Spontaneity/spontaneous 265, 269, 271 Stapleford, Scott 97, 118 Stenious, Erik 297 Stern, David G. 159, 278, 286 Stern, Robert 111, 301 Stevenson, Leslie 275, 301 Stock, Guy 6 Strawson, P. F. v–viii, 41–43, 89, 112, 113, 123, 124, 146, 147, 154, 175, 176, 190, 235–237, 269, 273, 291, 317 Stroud, Barry 97, 100, 113, 121, 135, 136, 212, 225, 227, 286, 298, 299, 301, 313, 316, 317 Subjective 168, 205, 207, 237, 264, 269, 312 ~ condition 147, 148, 204 ~ object 117, 265 Substance 49, 83, 95, 126, 128, 131–133, 145, 148, 149, 176, 202, 241, 298 empirical ~ 254, 267 immaterial ~ 93, 96, 126 permanent ~ 133, 150, 167 thinking ~ 95, 126, 150, 172, 176 Sullivan, Peter 25 Synthesis see Appearance; Apprehension; Imagination; Perception; and Transcendental synthesis


T Tautological/tautology 13, 14, 27, 83, 166, 171–173, 176, 206, 239 Tejedor, Chon 127 Therapeutic 146 Thing in itself 49, 54, 59, 60, 69, 70, 72–77, 83, 146, 150 ~s in themselves vi, vii, 3, 47–49, 51, 54, 60, 71–76, 79–84, 142, 144, 146, 234 thing in itself ~s in themselves 77 See also substance Thinking being 92, 93, 95, 114, 134, 161, 176, 201, 202 Time-determination/temporal determination/determination in time 123, 127–132, 134–136, 139, 253, 273 Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus ix, 21, 22, 35, 121, 127, 155, 222, 246, 270 Transcendent viii, 62, 64, 85, 111, 146, 191, 304, 305 Transcendental Aesthetic 71, 72, 260, 306 Transcendental argument/proof vi, vii, 27, 89, 111–113, 118, 120, 121, 209, 219, 235, 260, 261, 268, 271, 275, 276, 290, 299, 306, 307, 315 anti-sceptical ~ 113, 121, 123, 135, 217 modest ~ vii, 209, 317 progressive ~ vii, 269 regressive ~ vii, 233, 268, 300



Transcendental condition/condition of possibility viii, 1, 18, 20, 22, 27, 229, 231, 236, 268, 290, 297, 308, 313, 314, 318 Transcendental Deduction 46, 157, 230, 233, 235, 245, 248, 260, 261, 263, 269, 270, 275, 299, 302, 318 Transcendental idealism v–vii, 1–3, 19–22, 25, 41, 56, 64–67, 69–73, 77, 78, 85, 113, 114, 121, 142, 143, 146, 147, 209, 230, 231, 264, 298, 301–303, 305, 306 epistemological/methodological ‘two aspects’ interpretation of ~ 73, 75, 76, 80, 85, 146 linguistic form of ~ 2, 19, 20, 25 metaphysical ‘two aspects’ interpretation of ~ 76, 77, 79–81, 85 Prauss-Allison interpretation of ~ 73, 76, 78 principle of ~ 244, 257, 259, 263, 264, 299 Transcendentalism 71, 209, 229, 231, 233, 274, 297, 298, 315, 317, 318 transcendentalism 314 Transcendental logic 58, 59, 64, 313 Transcendental realism 20, 61, 64–66, 90, 142–146, 150, 160, 162, 231, 303, 305, 306 ~ about the mind 160, 290, 293 Transcendental synthesis 51, 52, 162, 248, 270–272

U Unity 47, 51, 55, 147, 149, 150, 237, 262–264, 273 ~ of consciousness 45–47, 132, 267 ~ of experience 175, 234 Utterance (Ausdruck) 8, 9, 163, 200 V Van Cleve, James 236–238 Variable 10, 222, 223, 225, 226 Visual 164, 169, 172, 194, 196, 197, 199, 205, 281 ~ field 67, 127, 167, 173, 197, 311 ~ room 156, 157, 193–200, 204, 205 ~ space 195, 197 Vogel, Jonathan 125 Von Wright, G. H. 176 W Warren, Daniel 133 ‘we’ 22, 23, 26, 97, 300 Westphal, Kenneth R. 301 Williams, Bernard 20–23, 26, 27, 29, 31, 156, 299 Williams, Meredith 315, 318 Williams, Michael 219, 224, 225 Wilson, Margaret D. 100, 103, 105, 217 Wolff, Michael 58, 61, 64, 142, 303, 313 Wright, Crispin 114, 183, 217, 225 Y Yolton, John W. 106