4.1 Introduction

What might it mean for the organization of living beings to be intrinsically linked to the organization of our rational capacities as thinking subjects? In “The concept of the organism”, Joseph Henry Woodger brings this traditionally philosophical question into the heart of biology. He writes that we must distinguish between ‘investigation’ and ‘interpretation’, two processes that appear to be “different in their nature, their outcome, and in the ‘canons’ which regulate them” (1930, p. 2). The investigatory process “reduces at bottom either to observing organisms or parts of organisms in their natural relations, or to altering their natural relations in a systematic way, and recording the results […],” with heuristic success as the touchstone “by which the investigator will measure all things.” The interpretative process, on the other hand, requires “knowledge about the properties of knowledge itself, and will not be natural scientific knowledge” (1930, p. 2). Woodger assumes that people who pursue natural scientific knowledge do not pay much attention to the dimension of “knowledge about knowledge” and vice versa, that people who make knowledge into an object of investigation “do not always know much about the subject matter of natural scientific knowledge” (1930, p. 2). He regrets this mutual disregard and compares it to the relation between the cook and the baking powder: “the people who pursue natural knowledge may be said, as a rule, and from one point of view at least, not to know what they are doing in somewhat the same sense in which a cook may be said not to know what she is doing when she uses baking powder” (1930, p. 1). In relation to the investigatory process, Woodger deplores that little appreciation is left for “understanding the properties of the intellectual tools involved—concepts, propositions, principles of inference, ‘working hypotheses,’ postulates, etc.” (1930, p. 3). He coins the latter as “the logical realm” and considers it to be an intrinsic part of the pursuit of scientific knowledge: “Natural scientific knowledge springs from a fertilizing union of two ‘realms’: the realm of sense experience or perception, on the one hand, and the ‘logical realm’ or the realm of abstract logical entities and relations, on the other” (1930, p. 4).

In line with Woodger’s focus on “knowledge about knowledge” and with the help of Immanuel Kant and Georges Canguilhem, we develop the idea that the workings of the “logical realm,” as Woodger calls it, become manifest first and foremost where something resists the investigatory procedures pertaining to natural science. The history of the modern sciences shows that this is most prominently the case in the study of organisms or living systems. This becomes clear from the many forms of vitalism that have been put forward (cf. Normandin & Wolfe, 2013), from the recurrent attention to the organism seen as more than the sum of its parts and as a complex and self-organizing entity vis-à-vis evolutionary theory (e.g., Kauffman, 1992; Salthe, 2010), as well as from the attention to developmental and emergentist dynamics and the accompanying criticisms of (genetic) reductionism (Webster & Goodwin, 1996; Kauffman, 1992; Salthe, 2010; Oyama et. al., 2000; Van de Vijver, 2009; Robert, 2004). As illustrated by the contributions to this volume, a recent outcome of these developments is the rising recognition of the value of the concept of biological organization in studying organisms (e.g., Mossio et al., 2009, 2016) and their distinguishing features (e.g., Saborido et al., 2011; Nunes-Neto et al., 2014; Montévil & Mossio, 2015; Pontarotti, 2015; Mossio & Bich, 2017). As we see it, this trend involves recurrent “moments of crisis” of the logical realm prevailing in the modern sciences.Footnote 1 In relation to the living organism, the conceptual space itself comes under pressure and cannot but change gear, moving from “knowledge about the object’ to ‘knowledge about knowledge.” The attention to the organism appears to be the point where the conceptual space is compelled to investigate its own structural procedures and dynamics—i.e., where it is compelled to fold back onto itself.

The hypotheses taken as a guiding thread here are threefold: (i) we interpret the crisis of the logical realm to concern at heart the relation between “subjects” and “predicates” and in particular the resistance of certain things (such as organisms) to being reduced to predicative descriptions; (ii) we take it that Kant was after something that diverges from the subject/predicate structure encountered in most of our Western languages and considered our logical and conceptual capacities to constitute objects, rather than merely being instruments to develop (predicative) knowledge about objects existing independently from us;Footnote 2 thus, Kant contributed to a fundamental rearrangement of our viewpoint on what counts as an object and on the place the knowing subject can have in the process of knowing; and (iii) Canguilhem was on a similar track to Kant in relation to judgment and knowledge, even if some of his writings on living phenomena are at times at odds with it.

Our discussion of Canguilhem and Kant, which calls for a focus on logic in matters relating to organization in biology, suggests that the crisis of “knowledge about” requires a more critical viewpoint on what can be qualified as a knowing subject. Insofar as one wishes to take on board the Kantian premise that the knowable is always for us, never in itself, the most straightforward move to make is to include, in the heart of conceptuality, the knowing subject’s participation in living dynamics. More precisely, both the living organism and the knowing subject seeking to describe the living organism appear to be characterized by an internal logic of reciprocity. Pace Brilman (2018, p. 26), then, whose analysis suggests that life must either be external to rationality (which she takes to be Kant’s view) or internal to rationality (which she takes to be Canguilhem’s view), we suggest that the epistemological difficulty of objectifying living organisms is in a profound sense due to their commonality with the organization of our rational capacities. This commonality, we conjecture, impacts both what can be called an object and what can be called a knowing subject. From this point of view, the attitudinal type of vitalism, as articulated and to a certain extent also upheld by Canguilhem (cf. Wolfe, 2011),Footnote 3 uncritically leaves the knowing subject intact and distinct from the things it seeks to investigate, even if it acknowledges, as Canguilhem does, that a knowing subject is fundamentally a living subject.Footnote 4

In what follows, we begin by briefly explaining Canguilhem’s attitudinal vitalism (in Sect. 4.2.1). This brings us to an analysis of what we take to be his own theory of judgment and account of “knowledge about knowledge” (in Sects. 4.2.2 and 4.2.3), on the basis of which we offer a first critical assessment of attitudinal vitalism (in Sect. 4.2.4). Both the flaws and the assets of Canguilhem’s thought lead the way to an in-depth analysis of Kant’s philosophy (in Sect. 4.3). First, we discuss Kant’s take on logic (in Sect. 4.3.1) and his transcendental theory of judgment (in Sects. 4.3.2 and 4.3.3), which is then brought in relation to Canguilhem’s thought (in Sect. 4.3.3) as well as to Kant’s own account of biological organization (in Sect. 4.3.4). This allows us to dissect in a renewed and more precise manner the uncritical tenets of Canguilhem’s attitudinal vitalism while simultaneously shedding a more distinctive light on how the organization of our rational capacities is intertwined with the organization of living beings (in Sects. 4.4 and 4.5).

4.2 Canguilhem’s Theory of Judgment vis-à-vis Life

4.2.1 Canguilhem’s Attitudinal Vitalism

We focus on the work of Canguilhem, because his questions in relation to living phenomena are very often questions of knowledge and vice versa. In Thought and the Living, for instance, he writes that we “accept far too easily that there exists a fundamental conflict between knowledge and life, such that their reciprocal aversion can lead only to the destruction of life by knowledge or to the derision of knowledge by life.” This presupposition leaves us “with no choice except that between a crystalline (i.e., transparent and inert) intellectualism and a foggy (at once active and muddled) mysticism” (Canguilhem, 2008c, p. xvii).Footnote 5

Canguilhem contends, in line with Woodger, that the encounter with living beings confronts us with issues concerning “knowledge about knowledge” and concerning the place of the knowing subject in relation to what is known. More specifically, he stresses that the perspectival dimension in relation to life is ineliminable and should serve as the core of epistemology at large (see 2008a, c, 1966, 1971). In this respect, he describes vitalism, an umbrella term for scientific theories that treat living organisms as fundamentally distinct from other natural objects, as a “permanent exigencyFootnote 6 of life in the living” (2008a, p. 62). Vitalism, according to Canguilhem, is not a mere theory among others but a central “orientation of biological thought” (2008a, p. 60). He speaks in this regard of a “vitality of vitalism” (2008a, p. 61). So, even if it

may be that vitalism appears to today’s biologists, as to yesterday’s, to be an illusion of thought […] the illusion in question is not of the same order as geocentrism or phlogiston theory—that is, it has a vitality of its own—in which case, one must philosophically account for the vitality of this illusion. (2008a, p. 61)

This constitutes the core premise of what is, according to Wolfe (2011), Canguilhem’s attitudinal vitalism. However, even if this line of thought draws attention to “knowledge about knowledge,” it remains rather meagre, because it leaves both terms, the knowing subject on the one hand and the exigency or demand of life on the other, relatively unquestioned. We therefore propose to focus on Canguilhem’s view of judgment, which is, we think, much more promising for dealing with the relation between knowledge and life and which remains until now largely unexplored in the secondary literature on Canguilhem.

4.2.2 Canguilhem’s Theory of the “Broken Judgment”

It is in “De la science et de la contre-science” (1971) that Canguilhem puts forward the core of his theory of judgment. If we observe a wooden stick in a glass, he says, we see it as broken.Footnote 7 Such will be our viewpoint, our perspective, no matter how many times we repeat the observation. Nonetheless, we will know that we see the stick as broken only in so far as the possibility of another type of knowledge has opened, a knowledge that describes things in an objective way, that describes how things are in reality. We will then also know that the perceived stick is not broken at all. From that moment on, it is impossible to maintain both viewpoints simultaneously: “one cannot be both naïve and warned, credulous and critical, ignorant and learned” (Canguilhem, 1971, pp. 173–175; our translation). The initial “seeing” of the stick is from then on broken in two: my judgment and the reality judgment. What is broken is therefore not so much the stick itself as our judgment: “Quoique paraissant brisé, le bâton n’est plus brisé, mais c’est le jugement qui s’est brisé” (1971, p. 173).

Canguilhem stresses, moreover, that both options are “inverse” as well as “correlated” (1971, p. 173). From the moment judgment is broken, there is an exclusive disjunction between my perspective and the perspective of reality. Their very possibility rests on a mutual exclusion: on the one hand, objective knowledge cannot but exclude the moment of naiveté whereby the stick is seen as broken. On the other hand, the “naïve seeing” of the stick as broken, revealed from thereon as an appearance, an ignorance, an uncritical evidence, is incompatible with the “objective seeing” of the stick (1971, pp. 173–175). As such, in their being inverse and mutually exclusive, both judgments are correlated. More in particular, Canguilhem states that if there is (a judgment about) a reality, it is the result of a transfer that establishes a correlation with a judgment that, by virtue of this transfer, can be called mine, a judgment that is related to something being identified as “my” perspective. To Canguilhem, appearance emerges together with reality: both are posited in relation to each other, albeit the one next to the other, the one excluding the other.

In addition, both perspectives are legitimate—the one is not “truer” than the other. Yet the issue of their legitimacy only appears when something like an observer perspective, and thus also something like an observed reality, enters the scene. As a result, appearance judgments cannot be said to be about reality just as much as reality judgments cannot be said to reveal the falsity of appearance judgments. As soon as judgment is broken, the false can no longer be seen as proportionally related to the true. The false is not a moment of the true; it is what is excluded from the true as soon as a decision has been made about the truth of the proposition. Instead of considering error as a matter of consistency—whereby the two judgments are conceived to be on par with each other, with “my judgment” becoming a false moment of “true judgment”—Canguilhem advocates for a categorical brokenness of judgment, a fundamental heterogeneity between the two judgmental sides which does not allow for reconciliation, for “taking over” one type of judgment from within the other (1971, pp. 173–175).

We could of course (scientifically) explain the falsity of my judgment that the stick is broken by considering it as a mere optical illusion. However, this misses Canguilhem’s point, which is to indicate a structural condition: if a human being makes judgments, it does so both from within its own, singular, lived perspective (potentially and at times actually shared by others) and from within a general perspective (shared by others as a norm). The general perspective, which adheres to universal laws of nature, often presents in an unjustified way the singular perspective as an initial, but false and therefore temporary moment of scientific investigation.Footnote 8 To Canguilhem, both standpoints are correlated while being inverse to each other: they exclude each other qua content (so that no comparison can be justified at that level), but they are related qua possibility. We will see below that this reciprocal dynamic is the key to understanding in what sense our capacity to judge participates in the living dynamics.

4.2.3 Knowledge About Knowledge: Reflexivity and Reciprocity

Two things need to be underlined in relation to Canguilhem’s account of judgment, two things that are important in addressing the issue of the concept of the organism. The first has to do with how our viewpoint on the capacity to judge, as it took shape from within the objectifying project of the modern sciences, is impacted by life and its knowability. Canguilhem’s work (as well as Kant’s, as we will show in a moment) weighs the knowability of living beings in the field of the modern sciences in terms of broken judgment: life brings us to the point of having to express something about the structure of judgment. Indeed, in line with the previous section, judgment emerges as broken, not between a reality out there and a knowing subject but between a reality as objectively apprehended by us, representing normative universal laws of nature, and an observational perspective that is mine. An I does not perceive reality as a we knows it. This means that if there is something like (scientific) objectivity, it is not because of the fact that an agreement has been found between two pre-existing terms, a knowing subject and an observed object. If there is objectivity, it is because we have succeeded, from within our sensible (i.e., sensory) and conceptual activities, to obtain distinct judgments that can be qualified as a reality perspective, inverse to and correlated with my perspective.

In this regard, Herman de Vleeschauwer’s work on Kant (1937, p. 434) suggests that to succeed in making such kinds of distinctions between judgments, we need a reflexive return (un retour réflexif) to our sensible and conceptual activities. Without such a reflexive return, there is no distinction to be made between conceptuality and sensibility—or between “the reality perspective” and “my perspective”. These capacities or activities themselves (conceptuality and sensibility) are representational products of the reflexive return upon them, which highlights that they cannot but remain structurally caught up in a complicit and solidary totality.Footnote 9

This brings us to our second point. If we come to ask ourselves the question of the knowability of life, as has been recurrently the case since the very onset of the modern sciences, it cannot but indicate that something in our “standard” representational procedures is shaken and has obliged us to undertake such a reflexive return. This is precisely what Woodger underlines in his analysis of the concept of the organism and in relation to which he comes to highlight the importance of logic. Precisely the standard ways of turning things into objects, i.e., the standard ways of grasping phenomenal diversity on the basis of concepts, becomes contentious in the context of scientific research about living organisms, where phenomenal diversity resists being subsumed under a concept as its predicate.Footnote 10 At stake here is the impossibility of identifying objects in terms of appropriate predicates (or properties), i.e., the impossibility of finding adequate concepts—a “reality perspective”—that can be stably, but inversely, correlated with the phenomenal diversity at hand, that is, “my perspective.” Instead of arriving at knowledge about the object, there is, in the case of the living organization, a prevailing indecision or indeterminacy between my perspective and the reality perspective.Footnote 11 This prevailing indecision implies that to address the question of the organism solely in terms of predicates or properties adequately characterizing it as a living organization, cannot but miss the point. Fundamentally at stake is indeed not the adequacy of properties but the structure of judgment underlying our procedures of knowing.

In sum, the identification of properties as if they are more or less adequate to capture objects that exist independently from our doings misses the core of the logic that both Woodger and Canguilhem, so it appears, intrinsically relate to an epistemological project that purports to be in line with what is implied by the living. There is no sense in assuming in this process an “originary standpoint,” as there is no sense, in Canguilhem’s broken judgment, in assuming the reality judgment to be more originary than my judgment. Here lies, in our opinion, the core of what can be called “reflexivity,” understood in terms of reciprocity: instead of referring to a knowing subject that develops knowledge about something, it indicates, from within an organic dynamic (as will be shown below), a return, a folding back onto certain activities (sensible and conceptual ones), leading to a “representational product” about that activity. As such, the prevailing indecision between my perspective and the reality perspective guides us to the insight that in the constitution of objectivity through the identification of properties, the knowing subject is an ineliminable factor.

4.2.4 Life and Logic

In “Aspects of vitalism,” where the core of Canguilhem’s attitudinal vitalism is articulated, it is argued that the crucial fault of classical vitalism lies in its “insertion of the living organism into a physical milieu to whose laws it constitutes an exception.” He takes this to be mistaken, because “[t]here cannot be an empire within an empire without there being no longer any empire, neither as container nor as contents. […]” (2008a, p. 70). A justification of this enigmatic statement follows right after in the text:

One cannot defend the originality of the biological phenomenon, and consequently the originality of biology, by demarcating within the physico-chemical territory—that is, within the milieu of inertia, of externally determined movements—enclaves of indetermination, zones of dissidence, or foyers of heresy. If one is to assert the originality of the biological, this must be in terms of the originality of one realm over the whole of experience, and not over islets of experiences. In the end, classical vitalism sins, paradoxically, only in its excessive modesty, in its reluctance to universalize its conception of experience. (Canguilhem, 2008a, p. 70; our italics)Footnote 12

Canguilhem appears to claim that life serves to be the sole perspective for all science, whereby the originality of the biological phenomenon reigns over “the whole of experience” as the one and only empire. There is no islet of life within a world of inertia, nor is there a “vitalist” empire contained within a “mechanistic” empire. But it is still enigmatic that Canguilhem formulates his criticism of (this excessive modesty of) classical vitalism in terms of the relation between a “contained” or “content” and a “container” (contenu et contenant). This distinction is traceable at least to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’ New Essays, where he writes the following in relation to Aristotle’s logic:

[…] rather than saying ‘A is B’ he [Aristotle] usually says ‘B is in A’ […]. This manner of statement deserves respect; for indeed the predicate is in the subject, or rather the idea of the predicate is included in the idea of the subject. […] when I say Every man is an animal I mean that all the men are included amongst all the animals; but at the same time I mean that the idea of animal is included in the idea of man. ‘Animal’ comprises more individuals than ‘man’ does, but ‘man’ comprises more ideas or more attributes: one has more instances, the other more degrees of reality; one has the greater extension, the other the greater intension. So it can truthfully be said that the whole theory of syllogism could be demonstrated from the theory de continente et contento, of container and contained. (1996, p. 486)Footnote 13

Canguilhem’s suggestion is that our “standard” scientific approach to nature must to some extent adhere to this logic of predication, according to which we are to mold our observations into a structure of predicates, subjects, and their internal (logical) relation, which allows for syllogistic reasoning.Footnote 14 He also seems to suggest that we simply cannot apply (this kind of) logic to nature in order to know what life is. This is because in an important respect life is the attempt to know what life is. In The Living and Its Milieu, for instance, he argues that:

[…] if science is the work of a humanity rooted in life before being enlightened by knowledge, if science is a fact in the world at the same time as it is a vision of the world, then it maintains a permanent and obligatory relation with perception. And thus the milieu proper to men is not situated within the universal milieu as contents in a container. (2008b, p. 120; our italics)

Thus, Canguilhem appears to defend the idea that living beings somehow escape our logical procedures—i.e., cannot be seen as a contained in a (predicative) container—because these logical procedures are themselves to some extent “rooted in life,” i.e., that “the living” reigns not only over the whole of experience but over “rationality” as well. The logical or intellectual tools (that we use to rationally study nature) discussed by Woodger are themselves living tools (used by living beings).Footnote 15

However, these and other passages might also lend themselves to a diverging interpretation. Schmidgen, for instance, observes that Canguilhem’s account of rationality involves a conception of life as “predominantly [manifesting] itself in organic individuals that act and react within specific environments which, in turn, are defined by the needs and desires of these individuals” (2014, p. 235; our italics). This is confirmed by passages such as the conclusion of The Living and Its Milieu:

From this stems the insufficiency of any biology that, in complete submission to the spirit of the physico-chemical sciences, would seek to eliminate all consideration of sense from its domain. From the biological and psychological point of view, a sense is an appreciation of values in relation to a need. And for the one who experiences and lives it, a need is an irreducible, and thereby absolute, system of reference. (2008b, p. 120)

It would take us too far to analyze Canguilhem’s standpoint concerning needs and their satisfaction in relation to his renewed epistemology, but we are certainly doubtful about the “irreducible, and thereby absolute” status of them as a “system of reference.” What is clear, however, is that a viewpoint that falls back on absolute and irreducible needs misses his insight that the living is not predicatively or logically graspable (i.e., that it is not a “content” included in a “container”). Hence, the chances are thin from thereon to arrive at a consequential viewpoint in which our logical capacities (as representational products) are seen as genuinely undetachable from the living dynamics.

The way in which this point is at stake in the current discussions on vitalism would certainly also merit further discussion. Let us just say here that the mere distinction made between substantival, heuristic, and attitudinal vitalism (Wolfe, 2011) potentially testifies to a similar predicament. Attitudinal vitalism refers to the viewpoint—attributable to Canguilhem, but also Kurt Goldstein (1995)—that the knowing subject adopts a certain stance in relation to life (call it epistemological, ethical, or political) and thereby refuses to ontologize and to substantivize the idea of a “vital supplement” (force, élan), so as not to fall into a scientifically unacceptable ontological vitalism. It does problematize the view that life is in any standard sense objectifiable, suitable for standard scientific investigation, yet it seems to do so by (uncritically) substantivizing that which is not objectifiable in terms of a (subjective) “stance” or “attitude.” In this respect, attitudinal vitalism appears to operate on par with classical or substantival vitalism, however different the former claims to be from the latter.Footnote 16 In this respect, it potentially misses the very notion of reciprocity that Canguilhem (be it in his theory of judgment), Kant (as will be shown below), and Woodger, in his way, are at pains to articulate.

In order to make clear how essential a logical viewpoint is in this discussion, we now turn to Kant’s theory of judgment. It will allow us to show how difficult it can be to escape from the “Cartesian trap” of ontologizing subject and object in terms of a knowing instance that cognizes a world which is more or less (or not at all) graspable through predicative means.

4.3 Kant’s Theory of Judgment vis-à-vis Life

Kant’s reflections on the possibility of objectivity led him to carry out a transcendental investigation into the thinking subject’s logical capacities.Footnote 17 Whereas its foundations reside in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/7), Kant brings his investigation to a head in the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790) by engaging precisely with issues, such as the issue of living organization, that seem to resist objectification. In this section, we argue that the special place Kant gives to living organisms in his “transcendental logic” (broadly construed) and theory of judgment must be addressed in terms of his overall concern with the science of logic and not so much in terms of their belonging to a supposedly unique ontological class. First, we briefly present Kant’s view that logic concerns a return upon unconsciously operative formal rules (in Sect. 4.3.1). This allows us to move on to his so-called transcendental logic, which involves a subtle critique of the reigning logic of his time (i.e., a logic of subjects and predicates) and which brings him to develop a new theory of judgment. We discuss how this theory emerges and is developed in both the first and third Critiques (resp. in Sects. 4.3.2 and 4.3.3). By picking up Canguilhem along the way, we show that the Kantian point of view on judgment is closely connected to the one upheld in “De la science et de la contre-science” (Sect. 4.3.3). On this basis, we explain why the difficulty of acquiring objective knowledge about organized beings in nature is tied to the organization of our own capacity to judge—again in line with Canguilhem (Sect. 4.3.4).

4.3.1 Logic as a Return Upon Unconsciously Operative Rules

Although Kant never got to the point of formalizing his philosophical system, it cannot go unnoticed to what a tremendous degree his entire philosophical enterprise is anchored in and fed by the issue of logical formality. Striking in this respect is his attention to rules. He used to inaugurate his lectures on logic, for instance, with the statement that “[e]verything in nature, both in the lifeless [leblosen] and in the living [belebten] world, takes place according to rules, although we are not always acquainted with these rules” (Log, 9:11). One could read this as some kind of insistent—some might even say dogmatic—conviction that the world shall be seen as a rule-governed thing, even when evidence thereof is lacking. But Kant seems to be after something else: to him, rules seem first and foremost unconsciously operative, such that they can only be revealed in retrospect. In Kant’s works, regularity is above all a presupposition that allows us to understand certain results or effects (thus requiring a return upon the presupposition of regularity itself). Clearly, formal rules are not merely being put to use as methodological tools for “making sense” of the world. Instead, our scientific-methodological attention to rules is an essential feature of our condition, reflecting our own powers and capacities:

The exercise of our powers also takes place according to certain rules that we follow, unconscious [unbewußt] of them at first, until we gradually arrive at cognition of them through experiments and lengthy use of our powers, indeed, until we finally become so familiar with them that it costs us much effort to think them in abstracto. Thus universal grammar is the form of a language in general, for example. One speaks even without being acquainted with grammar, however; and he who speaks without being acquainted with it does actually have a grammar and speaks according to rules, but ones of which he is not himself conscious. (Log, 9:11)

So, when we approach “the world” in terms of a search for “its” underlying rules, we cannot exclude the “we” from the equation: we are indeed rule-oriented by virtue of being rule-governed. In his lectures on logic, Kant thinks through this assumption by suggesting that if we are, in a sense, condemned to rules, then this is so because our power to think these rules must itself, in its activities, be bound by rules. Investigating into these rules is the task of logic:

[…] as sensibility is the faculty of intuitions, so the understanding is the faculty for thinking, i.e., for bringing the representations of the senses under rules. Hence it is desirous [begierig] of seeking for rules and is satisfied [befriedigt] when it has found them. Since the understanding is the source of rules, the question is thus, according to what rules does it itself proceed? […] Now what are these rules? (Log, 9:11–12)

These opening passages of his lectures on logic indicate that in construing scientific theories about the natural world—both in respect to what we call lifeless matter in physics and to what we call living organization in biology—it is crucial to reflect on our rational capacities, which are indeed of a logical nature. And, as will become clear below, this need to reflect on or “fold back onto” our rational capacities is indeed especially felt in relation to organisms. But first, we must consider the Critique of Pure Reason (the first Critique), in which Kant lifted to a higher level the idea that logic is not so much instrumental as it is constitutive vis-à-vis what we can call an object.

4.3.2 Transcendental Logic: The Emulsifying Function of Judgment

One of Kant’s central ideas in the first Critique is that analysis always presupposes synthesis: if we are to analyze the material world, we have to presuppose that it is always already synthesized following certain rules (KrV, B 130).Footnote 18 It is for this reason that, by investigating the capacity to have knowledge about the material world, one immediately lays bare the conditions of possibility of the material world itself. In other words, if knowledge of an object can generally be dissected into a conceptual constituent on the one hand and a sensory constituent on the other, this means that an object is as such made possible by a synthesis of sensibility and conceptuality (KrV, B 137). This is the heart of Kant’s transcendental logic. It presupposes the joint cooperation of two basic human faculties: the understanding and sensibility, each accompanied by representations of their own that are fundamentally heterogeneous to one another (concepts and sensible intuitions, respectively).

Besides heterogeneity, then, there is also reciprocity at play between the two faculties. Sensible representations are entirely heterogeneous to the understanding’s concepts, but they are nonetheless distinguished as such from within the understanding. Sensibility is identified as distinct from conceptuality, while being anticipated by it. If we want to maintain that sensibility and conceptuality are “inverse” terms, then we must also maintain that they are “correlated” ones. In other words: we must presuppose our conceptuality to have significance precisely in view of the fact that we have sensibility. Turning the manifoldness of our sensory representations into an object is only possible by making an appeal to the opposite thereof, namely, the unity of concepts. Thus, the concept is constitutive of the object on account of the fact that it unifies the manifold of intuition delivered in sensibility (KrV, B 135). Objectification requires overcoming heterogeneity while being indicative of it. It is only through objectification that heterogeneity itself is retrospectively revealed. That is why Kant defines the object as “that in the concept of which the manifold of a given intuition is united” (KrV, B 137). The condition of possibility of the object lies in the homogenization of our heterogeneous condition. Kant stresses quite elaborately in this respect that the act of homogenizing is a matter of judgment: judgment is the activity that relates concepts to sensible intuitions (KrV, B 169/A130—B 178/A 139). In that sense, judgment is not only the linchpin of Kant’s logic but also of his epistemology. The apparent “tension” behind object constitution, consisting in the homogenization of what can be called heterogeneous elements, is like mayonnaise: the watery parts could never mix with the fatty ones if it were not for an emulsifier—judgment.

The activity of judging, then, cannot represent an object “out there” by attributing predicate terms to subject terms and by drawing inferences on that basis. Such a logic of predication is potentially too compliant with epistemological realism, because it presupposes that judging merely consists in reflecting about the world by applying formal instruments. Instead, judgment is to Kant the condition of possibility of the object to begin with—its formal features are constitutive of objectivity.Footnote 19 We can indeed see his “transcendental logic” as a radical meditation on the constitutive impact of our human condition as divided between sensibility and discursivity. But all this is still more obvious in Kant’s writings on judgment in relation to the knowability of living organisms, as will be shown in the following sections.

4.3.3 The Life of the Reflecting Power of Judgment

In the Critique of the Power of Judgment (the third Critique for short), Kant sheds an even more distinctive light on our divided human condition. He now shows how the conditions of possibility of objectivity as described in his first Critique, otherwise valid for mechanical systems, see their activities fail. This failure of objectification befalls our judgment upon confrontation with the beautiful, the sublime, and living organisms. In light of this failure, Kant seizes the opportunity to develop a more distilled account of what it means to judge, considering that upon confrontation with the beautiful, the sublime, and living organisms, judgment is forced, as it were, to fold back onto itself.

In what is conventionally referred to as the First Introduction to this work, Kant writes that the capacity to judge “is not merely a faculty for subsuming the particular under the general (whose concept is given), but that it is also, conversely, one for finding the general for the particular” (EEKU, 20: 209–210; our italics). In the first Critique, it was indeed argued that, by way of a determinative (or determining) kind of judgment, sensible particulars are subsumed under general concepts of the understanding, thus constituting objects in conformity with mechanical laws of nature. But what if there is no general concept available to us? If this is the case, we read in the third Critique, the capacity to judge becomes a faculty for finding the general for the particular, that is, for finding an adequate concept for what is presented to us by the senses. In this situation, we are dealing with a reflective (or reflecting) kind of judgment, which, as it tends toward the generality of the concept without necessarily attaining it in a final manner, stresses above all the reciprocity of our heterogeneous condition. In that sense, we must presume that the reflective kind of judgment grounds the determinative kind, because “the latter is, as it were, a dressed-up version of the former” (Haeck, 2020). It seems indeed that subsuming particulars under general concepts is nothing but an instantiation of the structural tendency to find the general for the particular.

It is at this point that the dynamics of living organization enter the scheme. Why would a human being want to know, want to generalize? The answer to this question must be found in the structure of judgment itself. The third Critique teaches us that there is no life for the cognizing subject when we assume that we always already have rational capacities on the one hand and, separately, a world to investigate on the other, whereby the former is simply to be “put to use” in order to teach us something about the latter. It seems rather that these two poles are produced from within the seemingly purposive structure of the power of judgment itself. The living human being is set to generalize and to know by virtue of the fact that it is condemned, on the grounds of its heterogeneous condition, to judge. Meanwhile, it acknowledges its heterogeneous condition by judging. That the human subject is judging is therefore indicative of the fact that it is inscribed in the dynamics of the general and the particular and that it attempts to orient itself on this basis.

The drive to find the general for the particular is related to the fact that the legislative power of the understanding (which is set to subsume the particular under the general, thus constituting it as an object of nature) is not always satisfying to the power of judgment. There is a need to reflect on the particularity of nature in its very contingency and infinite manifoldness and to seek the general from within the particular (KU, 5:186–7). It is important to note, in this regard, that “subsuming” (determining) and “finding” (reflecting), if they are in a sense “inverse” to each other, are certainly also “correlated” acts of judgment: determinative judgment constitutes natural phenomena adhering to natural laws, yet in doing so, it also leads the way to reflect on (those) phenomena insofar as they showcase infinite specificity, diversity, and contingent particularity.Footnote 20 This “excessive multiplicity” of nature makes the power of judgment run at full speed (KU, 5:193), pressing again and again to search for laws that explain the very contingency of those phenomena. In other words: even if particular phenomena are determined by a priori general laws of nature, they are still “determinable in so many ways” (KU, 5:183).

Consequently, Kant writes that the power of judgment “must thus assume it as an a priori principle for its own use that what is contingent for human insight in the particular (empirical) laws of nature nevertheless contains a lawful unity” (KU, 5:183; our italics). Objects and laws that are contingent from the point of view of the understanding (i.e., from the point of view of determinative judgment), must, in other words, appear as purposive for the reflective power of judgment. This principle of purposiveness “attributes nothing at all to the object (of nature), but only represents the unique way in which we must proceed in reflection on the objects of nature with the aim of a thoroughly interconnected experience.” It is a “purposiveness through which nature agrees with our aim, but only as directed to cognition” (KU, 5:186). Kant adds quite tellingly in this regard that due to the fact that this principle of purposiveness is a subjective principle of judgment, we are “delighted (strictly speaking, relieved of a need) when we encounter such a systematic unity among merely empirical laws […]” (KU, 5:184; our italics). Our human scientific rules of thumb or “stock formulae,” as Kant calls them, like “nature takes the shortest route,” “she does nothing in vain,” “she is rich in species but sparing with genera,” and so on, are “nothing other than this very same transcendental expression of the power of judgment in establishing a principle for experience as a system and hence for its own needs” (EEKU, 20:210; our italics). These needs instigate an endless search for satisfaction: even if it would never be truly satisfied, the power of judgment seizes every opportunity to reiterate its endeavors (KU, 5:187–8; see also Van de Vijver, 2019).Footnote 21

Although the particular must be subsumed under the general, the act of reflection requires judgment to return its focus once again to that particular. Here, Canguilhem’s theory of broken judgment is echoed, for Kant’s theory of judgment involves a similar type of brokenness. Not only between subjective perception (the broken stick) and objective experience (the knowledge that the stick is in reality not broken), between sensibility and discursivity, between the ever-contingent sensible presentation and the law-like objective one, but also between judgments of reflection and judgments of determination. Insofar as judgment is determinative of the particular, it opens up an opportunity for reflection on the particular’s particularity. Then again, we must at the same time assume reflecting judgment to ground determinative judgment. These two kinds of judgment, although inverse, must always be considered correlated to one another. The perception of the broken stick can go together with the knowledge that it is not broken. Even more, the reflective power of judgment cannot ignore the fact that we see the stick as broken, although we know from the determinative one that it is not. Kant’s theory of judgment thus joins Canguilhem’s conception of science as rooted in life, which also “maintains a permanent and obligatory relation with perception” (2008b, p. 120). Hence, his discovery of the reflective power of judgment in the third Critique serves primarily as a first hint of the idea that a “living organization” can be found not only in nature, but at least also in the power of judgment itself. We will explain below that the drive to judge is a drive to live, even if life becomes manifest to the extent that it escapes a perfect and neat covering of the particular by the general.Footnote 22

4.3.4 The Organization of Judgment and/as Living Organization

It is against this backdrop that we must consider what Kant says about living organization, the so-called natural purposes or self-organizing products of nature. Kant describes the organism in diverging, yet thoroughly interconnected ways. It is, first of all, a thing that “exists as a natural end” as if it were “cause and effect of itself” (KU, 5:370–71). And, as “a thing that is to be cognized as a natural product but yet at the same time as possible only as a natural end,” it must also “be related to itself reciprocally as both cause and effect” (KU, 5:372; our italics). On these grounds, Kant concludes that a “natural purpose” is to be regarded as both an organized and a self-organizing being (KU, 5:374). This concept of organization could never be objectively attributed to mechanical nature, according to Kant, because “as a concept of a natural product it includes natural necessity and yet at the same time a contingency of the form of the object (in relation to mere laws of nature)” (KU, 5:396). But although the concept of organization “can never be a constitutive concept of understanding or reason,” it can (and must) be a regulative concept, suited “for guiding research into objects of this kind and thinking over their highest ground in accordance with a remote analogy with our own causality in accordance with ends” (KU, 5:375).

For Kant, living beings cannot be scientifically investigated as a phenomenon subject to general laws of nature, because they are not to be found “out there” as a special kind of matter organized in space and time. When we say they are not “out there,” we mean that “we do not actually observe ends in nature as intentional, but merely add this concept as a guideline for the power of judgment in reflection on the products of nature, [as] they are not given to us through the object” (KU, 5:399). Likewise, “it is quite certain that we can never adequately come to know the organized beings and their internal possibility in accordance with merely mechanical principles of nature, let alone explain them” (KU, 5:400). Kant’s view is certainly not that an organism resists objectification in itself, as being qua being. His view rather implies a restriction on the knowability of organisms, which is to be taken seriously by the life sciences.

Assuming, moreover, on the basis of the previous section, that the knowing subject is structurally condemned to reflection rather than merely voluntarily engaged in a scientific practice, it cannot come as a surprise that organisms occupy such a prominent place in Kant’s theory of judgment. The tension within judgment between particularity and generality, which seems to correspond to the heterogeneity between sensibility and conceptuality, is at its peak where the concept of a self-organizing being comes in. Here, the power of judgment must account for the lawfulness of the contingent itself. To regard such a lawfulness as purposive for our faculty of cognition is therefore not only an enormous challenge to the power of judgment. It is, on account of the structure of judgment as divided between two heterogeneous realms, also an enormous need of it (KU, 5:404). We have to regard “the concept of the purposiveness of nature in its products” as “a concept that is necessary for the human power of judgment in regard to nature,” although it does not “pertain to the determination of the objects themselves” (KU, 5:404).

But there is more to this slightly dramatic presence of living organisms in the world. The fact that they are in some way dramatically present to us gives us some retrospective insights into our own (unconscious) endeavors as knowing subjects. Kant writes that when the understanding “cannot follow” the excessive multiplicity of nature (especially, we would say, in relation to organisms), it is reason itself that becomes excessive (KU, 5:401). Therefore, in order to get a conceptual hold on living organisms, the power of judgment finds itself in need of supplementation and takes recourse to supersensible ideas proper to the faculty of reason. But in contrast to Onnasch (2014), we do not believe this recourse has to be taken intentionally.Footnote 23 Instead, Kant invites us to consider the knowing subject’s concepts and ideas and their logical organization as a “source of supplementation” with regard to a realm heterogeneous to them, namely, the realm of sensibility in which they take part—and certainly when, from within this realm, something like the lawfulness of the contingent, like natural purposes, becomes manifest. This organization and its dynamics are precisely what Kant’s transcendental logic is about. From the first Critique, we know that transcendental logic is the rational organization of a discourse providing the conditions of possibility of objectivity. In the third Critique, through what escapes conceptualization in a principled manner, it appears most vividly that the knowing subject, instead of being a “central directing agency,” a Cartesian cogito, participates in this conceptual and “vital” dynamics—is an effect of it, rather than its director.Footnote 24 The human being is subject to, rather than a subject over and above, its heterogeneous condition. This conjoins our suggestion, developed in Sect. 4.3.1., that logic is able to expose the unconscious dynamics of rationality. Rationality, as Kant wrote about it, is fundamentally alive: insofar as it involves heterogeneity between conceptuality and sensibility, it involves reciprocity. Whereas the first Critique shows, in relation to this reciprocity, that our rational capacities amount to an organized system, the third Critique informs us in hindsight that it has in fact always been self-organizing (see also Van de Vijver, 2006).

In this regard, it should be noted that for Kant, purposive self-organization, which we ascribe to “organisms,” is not necessarily identical to what he calls “life,” which is first and foremost to be ascribed to the faculties of our mind (Gemüt).Footnote 25 Yet, as Kant suggests in his Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, both life in the biological sense and life in the “facultative” sense “in no way belong to representations of the outer senses, and so neither […] to the determinations of matter as matter” (MAN, 4:544). This is because life is defined by Kant as “the faculty of a substance to determine itself to act from an internal principle, of a finite substance to change, and of a material substance [to determine itself] to motion or rest, as change of its state.” However, we “know no other internal principle in a substance for changing its state except desiring, and no other internal activity at all except thinking, together with that which depends on it, the feeling of pleasure or displeasure, and desire or willing” (MAN, 4:544).Footnote 26

Here, it is interesting to note that Kant describes what he calls Gemüt as “the principle of life itself” (KU, 5:278). This Gemüt is not so much “the mind” in the contemporary sense, as it is “the position or place of the Gemütskrafte (the Gemüt’s powers) of sensibility, imagination, understanding and reason” (Caygill, 1997, p. 210). It is the place where different parts of “rationality” come together in a systematic whole, being in a sense inverse to one another (i.e., heterogeneous), but nonetheless correlated. Insofar as reciprocity is concerned, it seems indeed to involve an organized reciprocity that is at the same time self-organizing, since it is due to the very structure of judgment—i.e., internal to the organization—that the activities of determination and reflection take place. This self-organization is also clear from Kant’s Opus Postumum, where he cites from Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1794), according to which the human Geist is like a system of reason that “becomes active [thätig] only through suffering [Leiden], that reaches absoluteness only through boundaries [Schranken]; that acts and forms only in so far as it receives matter [Stoff]” (Op, 21:77; our translation). More importantly, it is said here that:

[s]uch a mind will, therefore, combine the drive for form or absoluteness [Triebe nach Form oder nach dem Absoluten] with a drive for matter or boundaries [Trieb nach Stoff oder nach Schranken], as these are the conditions without which it could neither have nor satisfy [befriedigen] the first drive. (Op, 21:76; our translation)Footnote 27

This is yet another way to illustrate that our rational capacities are indeed fundamentally “alive” themselves: they structurally involve the reciprocal distinction and oscillation between matter and form, between receptivity and spontaneity, between sensibility and conceptuality. The need to continuously oppose yet relate sensibility and conceptuality, as inverse but correlated, is revealed from within a system of judgment. For this reason, it should not surprise us that this reciprocity is connected, as mentioned above, to a search for satisfaction (KU, 5:187–8; see also Van de Vijver, 2019). What is striking, however, is that we come to this conclusion by investigating why living beings—and their self-organization—resist objectification. This can show that, even if the laws of nature run counter to the order of the living, this is not to say that the order of the living runs counter to the logical organization behind the knowing subject’s attempt to investigate the world in line with these laws of nature.

4.4 Back to Attitudinal Vitalism

In honoring the epistemological restrictions with regard to knowledge about living organisms, one might nonetheless be committed to a kind of ontological dualism between subject and object, such that there is a capacity to judge on the one hand and a world on the other. It should be clear now that this Cartesian view is foreign to Kant’s theory of judgment, which is rooted in an overall rejection of the assumption of an independent world that can be adequately (or inadequately, for that matter) described and investigated. But is this Cartesian view also foreign to Canguilhem’s so-called attitudinal vitalism? In spite of its obviously anti-Cartesian spirit, there seems to be a Cartesian side to it.

What is it, after all, that grounds the requirement of an attitude? Although this remains an open question, Canguilhem seems to be convinced that it is life itself that incites a certain attitude toward it. Recall the “vitality of vitalism” (2008a, p. 60), the idea that:

[i]ntelligence can apply itself to life only if it recognizes the originality of life. The thought of the living must take from the living the idea of the living […]. [T]o do mathematics, it would suffice that we be angels. But to do biology […] we sometimes need to feel like beasts ourselves. (2008c, p. xx)

But is this not to suggest, be it implicitly, that if life resists objectification, it does so in the capacity of a being qua being? This idea, in turn, seems to be contingent on the assumption that there is a world consisting at once of mechanical nature and of living entities that transgress the mechanical order, thus necessitating the very attitude toward them. But we know from Sect. 4.2.4 that Canguilhem would certainly deny that: “[t]here cannot be an empire within an empire without there being no longer any empire […]” (2008a, p. 70). This means that (explicit) hints of a form of Cartesianism, upholding a conception of the world or the object as independent from our subjective doings, are not to be sought for in Canguilhem’s writings.Footnote 28 The hints are rather to be found on the (implicit) flipside of the Cartesian point of view on the object, namely, in its point of view on the subject—or rather the absence thereof. As explained in Sect. 4.2.4, the position of the knowing subject endorsed by Canguilhem remains to a certain extent unquestioned precisely because it is ultimately reduced to “organic individuals that act and react within specific environments which, in turn, are defined by the needs and desires of these individuals” (Schmidgen, 2014, p. 235). This, of course, can be seen as an anti-Cartesian move. So where does the attitudinal stance’s Cartesianism reside? It resides precisely in its relative silence on the topic of our rational capacities and their autonomous logical organization in which the knowing, living subject cannot but take part. We saw in Sects. 4.2.2 and 4.2.3 that Canguilhem himself had already come to the point of raising this issue, yet in this regard it was Kant who did justice to the arguably attitudinal idea that the impossibility of objectifying living organisms is fundamentally tied, not to a material state of affairs, but to the living dynamics proper to our own capacity to judge. When Kant employs the distinction between the nonliving (the mechanical) and the living (the organic), as two “kinds” of natural objects, his concerns are not only epistemological but also involve a circumscription of the living dynamics of the knowing subject itself (see also Van de Vijver & Demarest, 2013). The problem with Canguilhem’s attitudinal vitalism is indeed that it fails to give due consideration to what it means for a capacity to judge to take part in the very living dynamics that it seeks to investigate. In rightly suggesting that we must take an attitudinal stance with regard to the living organization, thus denouncing any substantivism with regard to its real properties, this stance inadequately takes on board the significance of the relation between the knowing subject and the observed object, even if it would admit, as Canguilhem arguably does (cf. Wolfe, 2011), that both the organism and our capacity to judge must be treated as if they were self-organizing, “alive”. To presuppose that we humans are alive in our rational endeavors, however, should not be a trivial fact—just saying it is not enough. As a presupposition, it has implications for what rationality means. The point is the following: by foreclosing oneself from examining these implications, one implicitly treats the knowing instance as a neutral epistemic agent.Footnote 29

Although the concepts of life and organization do, in fact, go hand in hand with the almost compulsory need to assume that living organisms are to be encountered in nature, this is not essential.Footnote 30 What is essential is that insofar as we encounter life in organisms “out there” by reflectively using our capacity to judge, we retrospectively bump into (fold back onto) our capacity to judge as participating in the dynamics of life itself. In thus going beyond a mere attitudinal vitalism, we agree with Jennifer Mensch that “[w]hen reason saw organic activity in nature, according to Kant, what it was really looking at was itself” (2013, p. 144). But this, we submit, seems to hold not only for the faculty of reason, but also for the other Kantian faculties of the intellect (understanding, judgment, etc.).

However, if the living organism is epistemologically challenging, this is not just in relation to the object that escapes, but perhaps also in relation to the subject itself: there is no clear division between the knowing subject and the observed object. There seems indeed to be something fundamentally symmetrical to the relation between subject and object, whenever the former is considered to be a self-organizing system and the latter is taken to be a self-organizing being. They are symmetrical to one another in the sense that what aims to be a judgment about the so-called living organism is revealed at once to be a judgment about judgment, for in both cases we attempt to grasp something of which we must presume that it is, in a way, organized and self-organizing. Quite strikingly, this means that knowledge about our capacity to judge might very well be subject to the same epistemological challenge that pertains to knowledge about living organisms.Footnote 31 Paying attention to “knowledge about knowledge” should therefore not be seen as simply summoning some kind of a meta-perspective. This would be out of place here, because in dealing with living organisms, we are ultimately dealing with a condition to which we are subject ourselves—which we cannot investigate from “a view from nowhere.”

In this regard, we have argued against the interpretations according to which Kant’s system of thought is seen as distant, theoretical, or instrumental, as such too external to be able to capture the living, whereas Canguilhem’s conception of our rationality would, on the contrary, be closer to the living in its creative “theoretical polyvalence” (Brilman, 2018). According to Brilman (2018, p. 26), for instance, it seems that if life is the condition of possibility of rationality, then it should not be its blind spot, such that life must either be external to rationality (which she takes to be Kant’s view) or internal to it (which she takes to be Canguilhem’s view). She concludes that life is the condition of possibility of rationality, “rather than” rationality’s ‘blind spot.’” But this is a misleading opposition, because life can be the condition of possibility of rationality while being its blind spot. If Canguilhem deplores that rationality is too often seen as a “crystalline (i.e., transparent and inert) intellectualism” (2008c, p. xvii), thus hiding rationality’s deep connection to life, then his own and Kant’s theory of judgment should come to the rescue.Footnote 32

4.5 Conclusion

The conclusion is not that there exists, between organization “in nature” on the one hand and logical organization “in rationality” or “in our minds” on the other, an absolute kind of isomorphism. A precise “mapping” of the elements of the one to the elements of the other would be the answer to a question we did not pose. It would also dishonor one of our core convictions, namely, that there is no sense in attempting to develop a meta-perspective overviewing what is “knowledge about knowledge” and what is the world at large. In that sense, Woodger’s programmatic essay might be a bit misleading at first. Instead, we tried to convey that the process of acquiring knowledge about living organisms forces us to fold back onto our own rational capacities (“knowledge about knowledge”), a process that ultimately reveals that the latter is in fact also to be understood in terms of a living organization. This revelatory moment, which involves a return upon certain (sensible and conceptual) activities, is essentially retrospective.

Through a survey of the theories of judgment put forward by both Kant and Canguilhem in connection to the problem of knowledge about living organisms, we articulated our dissatisfaction with Canguilhem’s attitudinal form of vitalism. In so doing, we shed a light on what it means to form judgments about living organisms but also about what it generally means to judge. While attempting to formulate objective judgments about living organization, we must not trivialize the assumption that our capacity to judge is (self-)organized too. It involves an internal reciprocity between heterogeneous elements, which highlights a certain purposefulness in its tendencies. A structural drive to connect our sensible representations with conceptual ones in judgments functions as the motor behind our rational endeavors and intentions. In this regard, Canguilhem’s theory of the “broken judgment” eloquently captures to what extent judgment is structurally torn between a conceptual, universal realm (the reality judgment) and a sensible, singular one (my judgment). Confronted with nature’s infinite specificity and particularity (not excluding self-organizing beings), the attempt to unify sensible representations according to concepts or universal laws ultimately fails. This then breaks judgment in two and leaves us, as Kant would have it, with the distinction between “reflective” and “determinative” judgements.

In this regard, our take-home message is that the judging, knowing human being—according to the philosophical tradition, the conscious holder of all sorts of intentions—is subject to, rather than a subject over and above, its rational capacities. The subject is perhaps not so much an agent that simply makes use of these capacities in view of acquiring knowledge about the world—for instance, while judging organization in nature. Rather, it is condemned to use these capacities on the grounds that it is a judging organization.