In Kant argues that space is an

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In this
essay I will attempt to explain what Kant means when he calls space a form of
intuition. I will present parts of his account of space as he expresses it in
the Critique of Pure Reason. While he
in many instances discusses both time and
space together, I will primarily focus on space and disregard time to a
certain extent. I will then briefly look at Bernard Bolzano’s criticism towards
Kant and his counter-argument where he rejects pure intuition. Lastly, I will
consider whether Kant’s doctrine on space is convincing or not in light of
Bolzano’s argument.

In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant states that
in order to arrive at knowledge claims we need two cognitions; concepts and intuitions. We cannot obtain knowledge
purely through concepts or the other way around; “Thoughts without content are
empty, intuitions without concepts are blind” (A51/B75). We need both to make
knowledge claims. Before Kant came with his theories, both Leibniz and Locke had
taken part in the debate of whether of not a priori knowledge existed. While their
views differed greatly, neither of them recognized sensibility, from which intuitions
derive, as a cognitive faculty that is distinct from understanding and reason. They
saw it as serving the other faculties and simply being something different to concepts.
Kant argues not only that sensibility is a distinct faculty, but that it also
underlies all other cognition. Sensibility according to Kant is the ability to
have intuitions; the ability to imagine, to form intuitions about objects that
are not physically there. The faculty of understanding on the other hand is the
ability to form concepts. By recognizing understanding and sensibility to be
distinct faculties, and combining the concept and intuition that they respectively
generate, one can make knowledge claims according to Kant.

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further establishes that there are two forms of intuition; space and time. They
are the only pure forms of intuition,
meaning that they are a priori. They are given to us prior to experience and
are what underlie all our other intuitions. He argues that space has to be a
priori because spatial representation is necessary for all of our outer
intuitions, all information that we receive is spatially formed. He calls it a
transcendental condition, meaning it is the condition of possibility for experience,
and we need experience to make objective knowledge of the world possible.

Kant argues
that space is an intuition rather than a concept because concepts are only
general representations of an object. We can for example have a general concept
of an animal, under which many representations of animals fall, all of which
are different. Kant considers space to be an infinite given magnitude, but that
is divisible; “we can present only
one space; and when we speak of many spaces, we mean by that only parts of one
and the same unique space” (A25/B39). If we then were to have a general
concept of space, only one object would fall under it, because space is
essentially one – but since concepts are general
representation it logically would not follow. Furthermore, since space is
an infinite given magnitude it has an infinite amount of presentations within
itself. Concepts cannot be infinite and therefore space is not a concept.

Kant claims a concept gives a general spatial representation of an object, characteristics that can
be shared by other objects. An intuition on the other hand is a singular representation that gives an object
immediately. Thus, the intuition allows us to single out the specific object from
the bundle of general characteristics that we have received through our understanding.
Bernard Bolzano’s own doctrine of outer intuition agree with Kant’s to this
extent. Bolzano understands, like Kant intended, immediate as giving the object to the mind.

In opposition to Kant, Bolzano considers spatial
relations to be conceptual, not intuitive. The way he sees it, all intuitions
that come about are in relation to actual objects; “It does
seem quite correct to me … to say that an intuition (that is, a subjective
one) always concerns an actual, and indeed, if you will, a present (that is,
acting on us at the time) individual thing … and that the content of the
intuition is not applied to anything other than this thing.” (WL §77.8, I.352)
He is of the opinion that all intuitions, at least those that humans are
capable of, correspond to an object in realm of reality. Since space is not
something actual it can therefore not be an intuition.


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