Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 41, 2016

Tim Jankowiak
Pages 623-649

Intentionality and Sensory Consciousness in Kant

According to “intentionalist” interpretations of Kant’s transcendental idealism, Kant’s empirical objects are to be understood as mere intentional objects. This interpretation requires a corresponding account of intentionality and intentional objects. This paper defends an account of how the intentionalist should understand the intentional structures at work in the sensory consciousness of physical bodies. First a relational conception of intentionality (articulated in terms of an object’s presence to consciousness) is distinguished from a non-relational conception (articulated in terms of representational content). I argue that the intentionalist’s claim that Kant’s empirical objects are mere intentional objects is primarily a claim about non-relational intentionality. I then ask whether the intentionalist should also recognize a role for relational intentionality as well. After rejecting two possible answers (that there is no relational intentionality, or that there are intentional relations to things in themselves), I argue that sensory consciousness involves having spatially arrayed collections of sensations presented to consciousness in intuition, and then conceptualizing these sensation-arrays as physical objects. The obvious worry about such a phenomenalist interpretation has to do with the consistency of this interpretation with Kant’s empirical realism; these concerns are addressed in detail in the final section.

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