Kant’s innovative theory of judgment and cognition in the False Subtlety of Syllogistic Figures

and Mihaela Vatavu


Kant’s early work The False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures is typically considered a narrow, technical work still embedded in the tradition of Wolffian logic. I argue instead that it needs to be considered in light of Kant’s developing theory of cognition and his corresponding criticism of the Wolffian single faculty theory. Whereas the mature Kant criticizes the rationalists for misrepresenting the nature of sensibility, the urgent task facing him at this stage seems to have been a proper determination of the nature of the understanding. On the Wolffian framework, the latter is defined in a merely nominal manner, in terms of a generic cognitive task: the distinct representation of the possible. On Kant’s view, however, distinctness entails a capacity to relate representations, which only happens in the act of judgment. Thus, the stated aim of the False Subtlety notwithstanding, the work attempts to reorganize the logical operations around the capacity to judge. In turn, by defining the higher faculty of cognition in terms of an act of relating representations, Kant wants to show that this faculty cannot stem from a power of representation that we share with non-rational animals and must instead rest on a different fundamental power, which at the time he alternatively calls “inner sense” or “consciousness”.

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Kant-Studien is devoted to philosophical and historical studies on Kant and Kantian topics. The journal publishes a comprehensive bibliography of new works on Kant, and provides reviews of the most important books. It is thus the leading German and English language resource on the current state of Kant research.