This paper will focus on Kant’s ideas of cognition. The first part of the paper will be a kind of glossary with commentary on the most well-known issues behind the terms themselves, going from the simplest to most complex. The central issue will be one known as The Togetherness Principle. Kant has, contrasting the rationalist and empiricist traditions of having only one cognitive faculty, argued there are (at least) two distinct ones; (1) The faculty of understanding and (2) the faculty of sensibility. The respective keywords integral to these faculties are (1) intuitions, which belong to the faculty of sensibility, and (2) concepts, which are part of the faculty of understanding. The Togetherness Principle (hereafter TP), which is going to be in the focus of this paper, is one of Kant’s most basic concepts upon which he builds his theory of cognition, followed by his theory of judgment and finally, his big proposal - Transcendental Idealism. The ideas concerning TP, its interpretation and issues, will be largely based on Robert Hanna’s supplement to the “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy” article on Kant’s Theory of Judgment, which I believe captures the essence of the issues surrounding the TP beautifully. The principle itself stands for the interdependence of intuitions and concepts, or, to put it differently, it reflects an idea that neither concepts without intuitions nor intuitions without concepts are capable of yielding a cognition. Kant words it superbly in one of his most famous passages from The Critique of Pure Reason:
"Thoughts without [intensional] content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind. (...) The understanding is not capable of intuiting anything, and the senses are not capable of thinking anything. Only from their unification can cognition arise." [Kant, 1998; 193-194]. However, Kant seems to imply differently in some parts of his work, suggesting that there really can be such a thing as a non-conceptual cognition. "...objects can indeed appear to us without necessarily having to be related to functions of the understanding" (Kant, 1998; 222) In other words, he states that we can, in fact, form rational cognitions that are objectively valid through intuitions and without the need of concepts.. The thesis in question is what Robert Hanna calls “the independence of intuitions from concepts”. [Hanna, 2018] Having observed these seemingly contradictory readings with far-reaching implications, I will present the positions which arise from the debate. Those are (1) Kantian conceptualism and (2) Kantian non-conceptualism. Kantian conceptualists, in short, argue that without conceptual capacities, one is not able to make use of any representational content yielded by intuitions and thus, not able to form objectively valid judgments. Kantian non-conceptualists argue, more or less, the opposite. According to non-conceptualists, the faculty of sensibility is able to provide us with empirical, non-conceptual content and is capable of forming objectively valid judgments without the “help” of our conceptual capacities. Also, Kantian conceptualism and non-conceptualism have its “strong” and “weak” variants for both sides, which will be covered in the text.
Finally, I will present two more arguments which will complicate the issue of conceptualism and non-conceptualism even further while possibly endangering the coherence of Kant’s philosophical system as a whole. The aim of this paper is to better our understanding of Kant’s theory of cognition and the hierarchy of its faculties while simultaneously showing how the conceptualism versus non-conceptualism debate could be considered a dead end and possibly be abandoned.