Kant's View of Space

Nature (January 1870)

[314] The following paragraphs, I believe, faithfully render sundry passage of Kant's writings:–

"Objects are given to us by means of sense (Sinnlichkeit), which is the sole source of intuitions (Anschanungen); but they are thought by the understanding, from which arise conceptions (Begriffe)." ("Kritik," p. 55. Hartenstein's Edition.)

"The understanding is the faculty of thought. Thought is knowledge by means of conception." (Ibid. p. 93.)

"The original consciousness of space is an intuition a priori , and not a conception (Begriff))." (Ibid. p. 60.)

"Space is nothing else than the form of all the phenomena of the external senses; that is, it is the subjective condition of sense, under which alone external intution is possible for us." (Ibid. p. 61.)

"Our nature is such, that intuition can never be otherwise than sensual (Sinnlich); that is, it only contains the modes in which we are affected by objects. On the other hand, the power of thinking the object of sensual intuition, is the understanding. Neither of these faculties is superior to the other. Without sense, no object would be given us, and without understanding none would be thought. Thoughts without contents are empty, intuitions without cnceptions (Begriffe) are blind." (Ibid. p. 82.)

"Time and space are 'mere forms of sense'" (Formen unserer Sinnlichkeit, "Prolegomena," p. 33) and "mere forms of intuition." ("Kritik," p. 76.)

With these passages before one, there can be no doubt that that thorough and acute student of Kant, Dr. Ingleby, was perfectly right when he said that Kant would have repudiated the affirmation that "space is a form of thought." For in these sentences, and in many others which might be cited, Kant expressly lays down the doctrine that thought is the work of the understanding, intuition of the sense; and that space, like time, is an intuition. The only "forms of thought" in Kant's sense, are the categories.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University