Kant on Imagination and the Natural Sources of the Conceptual

  • Johannes HaagEmail author
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 29)


Kant famously defends an approach to knowledge involving two ‘stems’ that necessarily interact to generate knowledge of the external world. This comprises, on the one hand, the receptivity of our sensibility, responsible for intuitive representations, and, on the other hand, the spontaneity of our understanding, conceived as a faculty of conceptual representation. It seems that the differentiation between these two ‘stems’ aligns quite neatly with the distinction between natural and normative influences on our knowledge respectively. Conceived this way, one of the persisting questions of Kant scholarship is how nature and the normative can interact in such a way as to produce empirical representations that are shaped by our conceptual constraints. To explain how this is possible, Kant introduces the faculty of imagination, which, guided by the understanding, allows subjects of experience to “synthesize” the representational input of sensibility into conceptually shaped representations. Kant’s philosophy thus offers a complex account of the imagination as the capacity responsible for synthesizing the sensory and conceptual aspects of representation, thereby acting as an intermediary between nature and normativity.


Receptive Sensation Intuitive Representation Productive Imagination Empirical Concept Sensory Consciousness 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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