Philosophy Colloquium: Kant's Concept of Cognition and the Key to the Whole Secret of Metaphysics

June 30, 2017

Friday, June 30 at 3pm: WMC 3220

Chung-Fuk Lau (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Kant's Concept of Cognition and the Key to the Whole Secret of Metaphysics


Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason had an enormous impact on the development of epistemology. However, certain core concepts in contemporary epistemology may have rather misguided interpretations of the Critique. A particularly tricky problem is Kant’s concept of cognition (Erkenntnis), which is different from the concept of propositional knowledge. Kant does not see the epistemological issues of truth and justification, which are otherwise central to the concept of knowledge, as his basic problem. What is essential to Kant’s concept of cognition is rather an appropriate relation to the object that connects us to the world and confers objective validity on intuitions, concepts, and judgments. The paper distinguishes between two senses of cognition, which can be characterized as the judgmental and the representational sense respectively, and argues that the possibility of representational relation depends on a set of necessary rules, by virtue of which objectively valid representations can be distinguished from invalid ones. The paper concludes with remarks on Kant’s thesis of the uncognizability of things in themselves and the possibility of extending the realm of cognizable objects beyond possible experience by the practical use of reason. In this sense, Kant’s concept of cognition can offer a foundation for a novel metaphysics that has both a theoretical as well as a practical dimension.