Nonconceptualism or De Re Sense? A New Reading of Kantian Intuition

Roberto Sá Pereira


The aim of this paper is to offer a critically review the recent nonconceptualist reading of the Kantian notion of sensible intuition. I raise two main objections. First, nonconceptualist readers fail to distinguish connected but different anti-intellectualist claims in the contemporary philosophy of mind and language. Second, I will argue that nonconceptual readings fail because Kantian intuitions do not possess a representational content of their own that can be veridical or falsidical in a similar way to how the content of propositional attitudes are true of false. In this paper, I will support my own reading that sensible intuition is better seen as what Evans and McDowell (1991) have called a de re sense, whose main characteristic is object-dependence. In this sense, Kantian sensible intuitions can be seen as a sensible mode of donation of objects. In my reading, the Kantian opposition between intuitions and concepts is best seen as the opposition between the objectual de re perception of something and the propositional de dicto apperception that something is the case rather than the opposition between nonconceptual and conceptual contents. However, if Kantian sensible intuition is not a mental state with a nonconceptual content, it is certainly in the general anti-intellectualist neighborhood.


nonon-conceptual content; anti-intellectualism; Kantian sensible intuition; de re mode of donation,


References to Kant’s works are given in the German Academy edition: Gesammelte Schriften, herausgegeben von der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 29 vols. (Berlin: 1902–1983; 2nd ed., Berlin: De Gruyter, 1968, for vols. I–IX). They are indicated as follows: abbreviation of the title of the work, followed by Ak., volume, and page. For the Critique of Pure Reason, the references are shortened, in keeping with current practice, to the pagination of the original edition indicated by A for the 1781 edition, and B for the 1787 edition.

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FSS.: Die falsche Spitzfindigkeit der vier syllogistischen Figuren Ak. 2 (1762). The False subtlety of the four syllogistic figure, trans. David Walford in collaboration with Ralf Meerbote. Ed. Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

“Logic,” ed. J. B. [Jäsche Logic], in Lectures on Logic, ed. and trans. J. Michael Young (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 521–640.

Prol.: Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik, die als Wissenschaft wird auftreten konnen, Ak. 4 (1783). Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Come Forward As Science, in Philosophy of Material Nature, trans. J. W. Ellington (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1985).


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