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Kant's Third Critique: The Project of Unification

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2016

Sebastian Gardner*
University College London


This paper offers a synoptic view of Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgement and its reception by the German Idealists. I begin by sketching Kant's conception of how its several parts fit together, and emphasize the way in which the specifically moral motivation of Kant's project of unification of Freedom and Nature distances it from our contemporary philosophical concerns. For the German Idealists, by contrast, the CPJ's conception of the opposition of Freedom and Nature as defining the overarching task of philosophy provides a warrant and basis for bold speculative programmes. The German Idealist development therefore presupposes Kant's failure in the CPJ to resolve the problem of the relation of Freedom and Nature. What is fundamentally at issue in the argument between Kant and his successors is the question of the correct conception of philosophical systematicity and in this context I reconstruct Kant's defence of his claim to philosophical finality.

Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy and the contributors 2016 

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1 The complexities are explored in the following recent works, selected because they to a greater or lesser extent address the Critique of the Power of Judgement as a whole: Henry Allison, Kant's Theory of Taste: A Reading of the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), Hannah Ginsborg, The Normativity of Nature: Essays on Kant's Critique of Judgement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), Paul Guyer, Kant's System of Nature and Freedom: Selected Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), Angelica Nuzzo, Kant and the Unity of Reason (Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2004), Robert Wicks, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kant on Judgement (London: Routledge, 2006), and Rachel Zuckert, Kant on Beauty and Biology: An Interpretation of the Critique of Judgment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

2 Yitzhak Y. Melamed puts the point well in ‘Charitable Interpretations and the Political Domestrication of Spinoza, or, Benedict in the Land of Secular Imagination’, in M. Lærke, J.E.H. Smith, and E. Schliesser (eds), Philosophy and Its History: Aims and Methods in the Study of Early Modern Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 258–277: ‘We should engage in the study of good past philosophers, not in spite, but because of the fact that frequently past philosophers argue for views that are significantly different from ours’ (274).

3 Critique of Pure Reason (henceforth CPR), A832–835/B860–863; see also A13/B27. Determination of form by an Idea is what distinguishes architectonic from merely ‘technical’ unity.

4 Critique of the Power of Judgement (henceforth CPJ, followed by the Akademie Ausgabe pagination), ed. P. Guyer, trans. P. Guyer and E. Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), Introduction, Sect. IX, 5:198.

5 The new conception of reflective judgement is needed in order to give substance to the idea that judgement constitutes a distinctive faculty of its own; without it, Kant would have little reason to add anything to the brief remarks on the power of judgement in the Critique of Pure Reason (A132–136/B171–175).

6 CPJ, Introduction, Sect. II, 5:175–176.

7 An analogy may be drawn with the problem of the Transcendental Deduction concerning how appearance can be conformable to the categories.

8 Jointly comprising an analogue in the rational ethical sphere of the testing of Abraham.

9 In a more profound sense than Hume. Kant's claim is not just that the inference to an Author of Nature is not inductively secure: it is that the concept of a natural end, which we apply to organisms, is distinct from that of an artefact.

10 Even if the need for some sort of reassurance of morality's purposiveness is acknowledged, it will not be agreed that the CPJ's transcendentalism is the right way to meet it. See Paul Abela, ‘Kant, Naturalism, and the Reach of Practical Reason’, in S. Gardner and M. Grist (eds), The Transcendental Turn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), esp. 67–73.

11 F. W. J. Schelling, Of the I as Principle of Philosophy, or On the Unconditional in Human Knowledge (1795), in The Unconditional in Human Knowledge: Four Early Essays 1794–1796, trans. and ed. F. Marti (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1980), 120n.

12 F. W. J. Schelling, On the History of Modern Philosophy (1833–34/1836–37), ed. and trans. A. Bowie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 173.

13 G. W. F. Hegel, Faith and Knowledge (1802), trans. W. Cerf and H. S. Harris (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1977), 79.

14 G. W. F. Hegel, ‘On the Relationship of Skepticism to Philosophy’ (1802), in G. di Giovanni and H. S. Harris (eds), Between Kant and Hegel: Texts in the Development of Post-Kantian Idealism (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000), 352.

15 G. W. F. Hegel, The Encyclopaedia Logic (1817), trans. T. F. Geraets, W. A. Suchting and H. S. Harris (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991). §55(c), 102.

16 G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Vol. 3: Medieval and Modern Philosophy, trans. E. S. Haldane and F. H. Simson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), 464: ‘There is still left for us to consider the third side in Kant's philosophy, the Critique of the Faculty of Judgment, in which the demand for the concrete comes in, the demand that the Idea of unity spoken of before should be established not as a Beyond, but as present; and this side is of special importance.'

17 See in particular Letters XVIII–XXII: On the Aesthetic Education of Man: In a Series of Letters (1793–95), trans. E. Wilkinson and L. Willoughby (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), 122–159.

18 See Herder's assault on the core claims of Kant's Analytic of the Beautiful in Part I, Ch. 5, of Kalligone (in Werke, ed. G. Arnold et al, Vol. 8 of Schriften zu Literatur und Philosophie 1792–1800, ed. Hans Dietrich Irmscher (Frankfurt am Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1998), 725–746).

19 Herder's positive antagonism towards the CPJ reflects the thoroughly metaphysical character of his naturalism, and contrasts with the indifference to its concerns warranted by a purely scientific naturalism.

20 See John Zammito, The Genesis of Kant's Critique of Judgment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

21 J. G. Fichte, The Science of Knowing: J. G. Fichte's 1804 Lectures on the Wissenschaftslehre, trans. Wayne Wright (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005), 31–32.

22 Ibid., 44.


23 The ‘highest formal unity that alone rests on concepts of reason is the purposive unity of things’ (CPR, A686/B714).

24 That Fichte does not, in the passage quoted, invoke the threat of skepticism, does not mean that he regards the issues as properly separate. See Paul Franks’ magisterial account in All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).

25 A645/B673.

26 CPJ, Introduction, Sect. IV, 5:180–181.

27 Explicitly dynamic images of systematicity are associated with, on the one hand, the task of infinite approximation of the German Romantics, and on the other, Hegel's Concept. My suggestion is that the image is also to be found implicit in Kant.

28 CPJ, Introduction, Sect. VIII, 5:192.

29 For example, Kant's interweaving of purposiveness and aesthetic pleasure in Section VII of the Introduction, 5:188–192, or the argument in Section II of the First Introduction, 20:201–205, that, since judgement is a faculty of cognition located between understanding and reason, and these have their a priori principles, judgement too should be thought to have one.

30 The first paragraph of the original (First) Introduction to the CPJ explains that philosophy as ‘the system of rational cognition through concepts’ is to be approached via the critique of pure reason, which ‘outlines and examines the very idea of it in the first place’ – implying that it is for critique to determine to what extent, and in what form, the idea of a philosophical system can be realized (CPJ, 20:195; see also CPR, A13/B27). In the CPR Kant asserts that for its execution (realization: Ausführung) the idea ‘needs a schema’ incoroporating a manifold (A833/B861), and that architectonic must begin ‘only at the point where the general root of our cognitive power divides’ into the rational and empirical.

31 See CPJ, §68, 5:381: ‘Every science is of itself a system; and it is not enough that in it we build in accordance with principles and thus proceed technically; rather, in it, as a freestanding building, we must also work architectonically, and treat it not like an addition and as a part of another building, but as a whole by itself, although afterwards we can construct a transition from this building to the other or vice versa.'

32 Picked out by Hegel in the earlier quotation as approximating to ‘the Idea’.

33 CPJ, §77, 5:407.

34 And more specifically why we need teleological judgement. See the conclusion of §70, 5:388, which explains how teleological judgement makes up for our ignorance of a ‘single principle’. Discussion of the single principle issue is resumed in §78: ‘it follows that the unification of the two principles cannot rest on a ground for the explanation (explication) of the possibility of a product in accordance with given laws for the determining power of judgment, but only on a ground for the elucidation (exposition) of this for the reflecting power of judgment. – For to explain means to derive from a principle, which one must therefore cognize distinctly and be able to provide’ (5:412).

35 This move involves a further element, not yet mentioned: Kant argues in CPJ, §76, 5:403–404, that what has the value of Seyn-Sollen for the human intellect, what should be the case, has being, Seyn, for the intuitive intellect. More detailed discussion of the themes in this section may be found in my ‘German Idealism, Classical Pragmatism, and Kant's Third Critique’, in Gabriele Gava and Robert Stern (eds), Pragmatism, Kant, and Transcendental Philosophy (London: Routledge, 2016).

36 The image needed here is complex but coherent: human cognition and the intuitive intellect comprise two heterogeneous non-intersecting dimensions, but as we move in a certain direction along the one that is ours, the content of our cognition, the order of objects that it represents, becomes increasingly isomorphic with that of the intuitive intellect.

37 CPJ, §59, 351–352.

38 To be clear, Schelling does not discuss this passage: I am extrapolating from what he does say about Kant's teleology in the Introduction to his Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature (1797, 2nd & revised edn. 1803), trans. Errol E. Harris and P. Heath (Cambridge: CUP, 1988), 30–42.

39 CPJ, First Introduction, Sect. V; 20:215–216.

40 Schelling, Introduction to the Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799), §6, in First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799), trans. K. R. Peterson (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2004), 202.

41 Ibid., 227, 232.


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