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Kant´s Notion of a Transcendental Schema

The Constitution of Objective Cognition between Epistemology and Psychology


Lara Scaglia

The main aim of this book is to provide a critical and historical inquiry into Kant’s schematism chapter contained in the Critique of Pure Reason. More specifically, the book argues that Kant’s schematism chapter is a necessary step within the project of the Critique. It deals with a problem of its own, one which is not the object of the previous chapters: How can categories be applied to intuitions? The author shows that the term ‘schema’ has an interesting and long tradition of different philosophical uses that finds in the works of Kant a point of no-return. In the philosophical works written before Kant, the notion of schema did not have a specific and distinctive meaning and function of its own but was rather used in different contexts (from rhetoric to logic to psychology). After Kant, all philosophers who speak of schemata refer in one way or another back to Kant’s distinctive notion, which possesses a specific, epistemic meaning. Moreover, this book aims to provide a contribution to the understanding of the relation between philosophy and the sciences. It is by means of demonstrating the importance of the schematism chapter not only within the Critique but also from a broader perspective, deriving from the fact that Kant’s doctrine of schemata had an impressive influence not only on philosophers but also on psychologists.

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1.The notion of schema before Kant


Before considering in detail the reasons for why the notion of schema is problematic both in the work of Kant and also in more recent thinkers, an overview of the meanings in which this term was used before Kant has to be introduced.

The literature on the meanings of the notion of schema before Kant and their possible influences on him is very scarce. In the Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie a precise and detailed overview of the uses of the term is presented by Werner Steigmeier, although not aiming to stress the relations and influences between the authors, but rather to expose and list the variety of significances of the notion of schema throughout the history of philosophy. Although the overview provides a large contribution, it is not complete and important authors are omitted (for instance: Joachim Georg Darjes, Christian Thomasius, Johannes Nikolaus Tetens). Some relevant points are made by Thiel (2018), Psilojannopoulos (2013), Semplici (2011), who deal with Thomasius’ and Tetens’s conceptions of cognition and its relation to sensibility.

However, they do not investigate the relation of their doctrines with Kant’s schematism.

Given the absence of detailed researches on the notion of schema before Kant, I have decided to devote the first chapter to this task. More specifically, the chapter is divided into three sections, following the chronological order (ancient times, middle ages and modernity), in which ‘schema’ is found in philosophical literature. The variety of the connotations of this...

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