Colloquium: March 11th

Title: "Kant on Cosmological Unity and the Unity of Space"

Speaker: Dai Heide (Simon Fraser University)

Friday, March 11th at 2:30pm CLE A203


From at least 1770 onwards, Kant holds that space is a singular unity. This means, in part, that any two places, or regions of space, are parts of a larger space that encompasses them. Kant often asserts this claim without obvious justification; commentators are accordingly divided over what justification, if any, Kant provides for this claim. One camp holds that the unity of space is simply given in a non-conceptual intuition of space. Another holds that the unity of space is the product of the subject’s conceptually guided synthesis of the sensory manifold. I argue that Kant has a distinct justification for his claim that space is a singular unity. Specifically, I argue that unity of space is grounded in Kant’s commitment to an anti-Leibnizian cosmology according to which fundamental substances (“noumena” in Kant’s terminology) must stand in relations of mutual interaction in order to constitute a world. Since Kant holds that human subjects are, in themselves, noumena (and thus subject to the requirement that they stand in interactive relations with other noumenal subjects), and since he holds that space is the subject’s form of “receptivity” to other beings, the requirement that mutually interacting noumena constitute a single unified world entails that the subject’s form of receptivity to other existents reflects or “represents” this condition. Thus, for Kant, the unity of space is not fundamentally grounded in the subject’s intellectual activity in relation to the subject’s sensible manifold, nor is it merely a brute given; rather, the unity of the subject’s spatial manifold is grounded in a cosmological condition upon the unity of the created world at the most fundamental level. While this interpretation will be controversial, I defend it from several potential objections, including the objection that it violates Kant’s commitment to epistemic humility regarding things in themselves.