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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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5.Debates over the schematism chapter in Kantian scholarship


Among the numerous critics of Kant’s account on schematism, I shall here focus on five authors, selected as being representative, because of the strength of their arguments and the differences of their positions. Whilst having two distinctive argumentative strategies, Walter Zschocke and Ernst Robert Curtius accuse Kant of introducing the theory of schematism as a superfluous section in the argument of the Transcendental Analytic. William Henry Walsh, although stressing the obscureness of some passages of the chapter, focuses on its importance in order to understand Kant’s general view on the different types of cognitive functions. Furthermore, an interpreter who confronts the question on the importance and necessary role of schematism in the Critique of Pure Reason is Daniel Dahlstrom, whilst Paul Guyer harshly criticises the temporal nature of schemata. In addition, I shall benefit from Henry Allison’s contributions to clarify the main problems of the chapter: the role of space, the differences concerning the faculties implied in cognition and the difficulties caused by the extraordinary amount of definitions of ‘schemata’.

In this chapter, in a first, “destructive” part (5.1), I will consider the criticisms of the aforementioned authors regarding the schematism chapter, concerning: firstly, the requirement of a chapter devoted to schemata within the Critique of Pure Reason (5.1.1); secondly, Kant’s use of an obscure terminology, which leads to difficulties in interpreting the distinctions among the faculties and types of functions implied in cognition (5.1.2); thirdly, the priority Kant ascribes to time over space (5.1.3).

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