Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Language Animal, Bête, and Kant

Continuing to read Kant (1989), towards establishing a robust dialectical framework for my forthcoming Contrapuntal Cartographies, I am at the same time keeping on top of Taylor (2016) and Roberts (2014).  The relationship of the latter two works to the former is interesting and complex.

Representation and the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity; the concepts of the understanding, on the one hand, and empirical data given through the senses, on the other; these are some of the ideas Kant was struggling with in his Critique.

I see some similar struggles playing out in The Thing Itself and, now that I've read it, in Bête.  But before I go further I have to say that the best thing about Bête is that it is a comedy all the way through.  It is deeply tragic at the same time, but it is the humour I will remember.

This, despite the fact that Bête often reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's The Road.  Because I often found myself thinking about the ridiculous talking animals of The Far Side, even as I was drawn into the desolate first-person post-apocalyptic cogito ergo sum narrative style of Bête.

This is going to be a short review in part because I simply love Bête so much.  That may be insufficient for more critical-minded or academic readers.  But what this book does for me is remind me of some very important points people like Regan (1983) and Taylor (2016) have been saying in their books. These two thinkers just mentioned come at the 'question of animals' and their capabilities and their rights from very different perspectives.

I read Regan's The Case For Animal Rights in depth quite a few years ago, and took extensive notes, but never became vegetarian or vegan as one might've thought I would after that experience.  Reading Bête I am, to some extent, reminded why.  Despite the fact that Regan's work has not been bettered in the decades since its writing, a book like Bête demonstrates a phenomenological impetus for reasons against, and this in turn brings me to Graham Penhaligon.  He is (to me) everyman, make no mistake, very much white, redneck, middle-aged, angry man, and I identified with him.  I want to be like him, even more than I could've ever wanted to be like the characters in The Thing Itself (Roberts, 2015) (though that one is still my favourite).

Now, I go back to Taylor (2016), reading it, and Kant (1989), again, with new eyes.   I am deeply refreshed because Graham Penhaligon, tortured by an artificially intelligent cat, exists.  Graham Penhaligon thinks, therefore I am.  And my own book (Contrapuntal Cartographies, forthcoming 2019 with McGill-Queen's University Press) can proceed.



Kant, Immanuel.  1989.  Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith.  London: Macmillan Education.

Regan, Tom.  1983.  The Case For Animal Rights.  Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press.

Roberts, Adam.  2014.  Bête.  London: Victor Gollancz.

Roberts, Adam.  2015.  The Thing Itself.  London: Victor Gollancz.

Taylor, Charles.  2016.  The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SCIENCE FICTION AS COUNTER-MAPPING: Notes on Norman Kemp Smith's Kant: Radical Alterity, Trauma, and Science Fiction

Science fiction and Kant both helped me see the world as radically 'other.'  Science fiction: I've always been a fan.  Kant: I wasn't a fan until I read Roberts (2015).  Through reading Kant (1989), I'm acquiring a set of tools for seeing the world as radically other, heightened by my concurrent reading of science fiction.  Two questions emerge: 1. Is the realisation that the world is nothing other than one's a priori projection onto it a traumatising experience? 2. Is science fiction inherently about trauma?

Without having read The Thing Itself, these questions would not have emerged.  At the same time as I've been cultivating a kind of cognitive estrangement through my building relationship with TTI, another question has flowered beneath the first two, and this is: is the estrangement/utopia SF offers a 'way in' to examination of subaltern experiences of contact and colonisation?  In other words, can SF be used as a tool for analysing coloniser/colonised, settler/disspossessed, native/alien dichotomies?  At the inflection point of each of these dualities lies a trauma, and science fiction, I would argue, offers a set of narrative strategies and tropes for their deconstruction.  Le Guin (2002) is a key reading in this regard, offering a literal counter-map of two worlds in juxtaposition, each seeing the other as its own moon; each seeing themselves, in anthropological discourse, as 'the people.'  (It is my unevidenced contention that Massey's For Space is channelling The Dispossessed in its political focus on anarchism as an ideal political form, and in its emphasis on heterogeneity as an inherent good).

I'm slowly circling around to what all this might mean for counter-mapping, contrapuntality, and indigeneity.  I'm proposing to devote a section to the following trialectical conjunction:

Indigeneity -- Trauma -- Science Fiction

I'll start with the right hand connection (Trauma -- Science Fiction).  There are certainly traumatic episodes in TTI, to the extent that it drives the plot of the book.  Another obvious one would be Slaughterhouse Five, in which Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time as a result of his traumatic experience of the Dresden bombings (something Vonnegut himself experienced) (Vees-Gulani, 2003).  Everything about The Dispossessed is somehow traumatic, from Shevek's (double) forced displacement, to the existence of the two opposite worlds in the first place, and the origin of that binary construction.  Other examples will undoubtedly abound (this is an excuse for me to read a lot more science fiction!).  

Links between indigeneity and trauma are not hard to find.  The two 'set-pieces' I'm examining in my forthcoming Contrapuntal Cartographies are the northern highlands of Scotland; and indigenous/northern Canada.  Evidence of trauma comes from readings of literature, from Scott (Waverley, Rob Roy, Heart of Midlothian, Redgauntlet) and Boyden (Three Day Road, Through Black Spruce, The Orenda); I'm adding to this list indigenous/Scottish science fiction (Taylor, 2016; Dillon, 2012; Wilson and Williamson, 2005).  These will be constructed as counter-mappings.

The last piece of the puzzle then is: is science fiction counter-mapping and, if so, what are its specific resonances for indigenous and subaltern subjectivities and resistances?  What kinds of mappings flow from the extraordinary nova science fiction produces?  In what ways are these inherently 'indigenous', or relevant to subaltern experiences of cognitive dissonance, displacement, and erasure?  To what extent is it OK to say that we (white British people) understand the indigenous experience because we've read War of the Worlds, and were traumatised by it (albeit metaphorically)?  Would it really be like that?  Was it?

Is it ok to posit Kant's categories of space and time (separately) as a priori structuring of the world, subjectivity, and knowledge?  Does the fact that I am, after all, a white Euro-Canadian man make a difference, or offer an excuse, a way out?  Or was Kant just right?  I can't help but think Kant was significantly correct, and got it right so to speak, to the extent that philosophers after him only refined or revised the findings of the critique (at least up to Foucault).  At the same time, science fiction, post-modern genre par excellence (Jameson, 2005), lets us see the world including practically all of its revolutions at once (as in a kind of Borgesian Aleph, once we get into it), and the world as radically other admits of other ways of seeing beyond those circumscribed by Kant (1989).  



Dillon, Grace (ed.).  2012.  Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Jameson, Fredric.  2005.  Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London and New York: Verso.

Kant, Immanuel.  1989.  Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith.  London: Macmillan Education.

Le Guin, Ursula.  2002.  The Dispossessed.  London: Victor Gollancz.

Roberts, Adam.  2015.  The Thing Itself.  London: Victor Gollancz.

Taylor, Drew Hayden.  2016.  Take Us To Your Chief and Other Stories.  Madeira Park: Douglas & McIntyre.

Vees-Gulani, Susanne.  2003.  Diagnosing Billy Pilgrim: A Psychiatric Approach to
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.  Critique.  44:2, 175-184.

Wilson, Andrew, J. and Williamson, Neil.  (eds.).  2005.  Nova Scotia: An Anthology of Scottish Speculative Fiction.  Mercat Press.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Notes on Norman Kemp Smith's Kant: On the Thirdspace of the Table of Categories

Kant (1989, page 113) produces a table of categories with four parts, each part of which has three elements.  It is presented in quadrants (spatially), but this is not necessary.  What is important to note is that, though we are well into that part of the Analytical (as opposed to Dialectical) Critique there is an inherently dialectical aspect to the Table that Kant notes in a somewhat self-congratulatory way.  Here is the table:

Of Quantity

Of Quality

Of Relation
-Of Inherence and Subsistence (substantia et accidens)
-Of Causality and Dependence (cause and effect)
-Of Community (reciprocity between agent and patient)

Of Modality

On page 115, Kant notes "this table of categories suggests some nice points" with respect to his construction of a priori knowledge categories which, in addition to space and time, form an exhaustive list of a priori knowledge.   In other words, space, time, and the categories is it.  Now, this is meant to be analytic (not dialectic), but Kant notes on page 116, that the third term under each of the four categories is actually a combination of the first two.

So, for example, "thus the concept of a number (which belongs to the category of totality) is not always possible simply upon the presence of concepts of plurality and unity (for instance, in the representation of the infinite)..."

Soja (1996) might have called the third term of each category a Thirdspace, but this would be to construct it as dialectical (or trialectical for Soja).  But Kant denies that the categories are dialectical, because they are part of a priori knowledge (along with space and time as noted above).

The point here (as Roberts, 2015 has pointed out) is that the table of categories has a distinctly subjective look about it, that also appears to be quite obsessively concerned with symmetry.  To psychopathologize (again with Roberts, 2015) for a moment, it almost has an OCD look about it.

The final chapter of The Thing Itself is called "The Professor [Necessity]", and it takes the perspective of Kant himself (the thing Himself) in his final days, and it is agonizing to be inside Kant's consciousness (this is a correct representation I think).

TTI also structures itself according to the twelve sub-categories by naming each of its twelve chapters after one of Kant's headings, a nice touch to a very heterogeneous novel, and one that applies a nice unity overall to a quite fragmented narrativity.  One of the funnier (for me) parts of the novel is the deconstruction of the number (12) of categories Kant produces, with an alternative of seventeen proposed by the protagonist AI with whom Charles has extensive conversations towards the end of TTI.

All of this to say that, as I enter the Transcendental Deduction section of Smith's Kant (and what a work of literature it is!), I am firmly of the conviction that not only have many after Kant failed to produce anything close to as rigorous (quid juris) or right to expound the organon of their analytic to justify the relation between a priori concepts and its objects; but that Kant himself is firmly under a kind of dialectical illusion with regard to his table of concepts (but perhaps not so much with respect to space and time).

I'm continuing to read (and be critical of) Massey (2005) at the same time as I write this, noting that she is often in the grips of a canon she thinks of as an organon (instrument), in my opinion.  To wit (Massey, 2005, page 80), "that far from standing for the stability of representation, real space (space-time) is indeed impossible to pin down."  The anti-representational rhetoric gets turned up again, but there is that hubristic human geographical claim to be able to access the thing itself (REAL SPACE) glaring through.

All of this will be appearing in my forthcoming academic monograph Contrapuntal Cartographies, due on shelves in 2019, published by McGill-Queen's University Press.


Kant, Immanuel.  1989.  Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith.  London: Macmillan Education.

Massey, Doreen.  2005.  For Space.  London: Sage.

Roberts, Adam.  2015.  The Thing Itself.  London: Victor Gollancz.

Soja, Edward. 1996.  Thirdspace.  Malden and Oxford: Blackwell.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Notes on Norman Kemp Smith's Kant: SPACE and TIME

All the mobilities stuff, it's all already here, in Kant.  After wrapping up the preliminaries of the Transcendental Aesthetic in terms of first Space, and then Time (i.e. separately) we have a few pages on both (i.e. Space AND Time).  Here's where the combination is introduced:

"Motion presupposes the perception of something movable.  But in space, considered in itself, there is nothing movable; consequently the movable must be something that is found in space only through experience, and must therefore be an empirical datum.  For the same reason, transcendental aesthetic cannot count the concept of alteration among its a priori data.  Time itself does not alter, but only something which is in time.  The concept of alteration thus presupposes the perception of something existing and of the succession of its determinations; that is to say, it presupposes experience" (Kant, 1989, page 82).

In other words space and time are analytically separate.  Motion unites the two.  This is quite a crucial point.  We tend to think, however, in terms of space-travel when we think of motion, but it is useful to stick to Kant's original formulation of motion as fundamentally being about alteration.  We alter spatial coordinates only through time; temporal coordinates only through space.  Thinking time-travel, for example, H.G. Wells time-machine would never have worked because it did not move through space.  Nahin has pointed out that Wells' time machine would collide with itself as soon as it started, causing a thermonuclear explosion (Nahin, 2011, page 64).

Now, if what Massey (2005) is getting at is that spacetimes are inherently relativistic and that Newtonian considerations are in error because of this (i.e. because they keep space and time separate), we can answer that not only are space and time properly kept analytically separate for philosophical purposes, they are also properly kept separate for everyday conceptions of space and time.  These rely upon Newtonian mechanics and their representations.

A trace of your run depicted on Strava may have been generated by (relativistic) GPS signals, but the fact remains that you did not run anywhere near the speed of light.  Even if you had, in both cases, (slow and near-light-speed running) can only be thought of in terms of representations of spacetime.  They cannot be kept separate in any kind of 'alteration' as Kant would've put it because in motion space and time come together empirically, but not on a priori grounds.  Alteration/motion is therefore analytically an a posteriori proposition.

Not only does Massey leave out the cognitive (bodily) basis for her metaphysics of space; she also leaves out the considerable imaginative and presuppositional content inherent to spatiotemporal considerations in geography.  It is a lack of imagination that leads one down the dead-end path of non-representational theory.  It is an a-theoretical text that takes on space without any reference to Kant (Thrift is almost guilty of this too).

This review is also a review of Adam Roberts (2005) The Thing Itself, and I have more to say about this brilliant work of science fiction.  Its novum is strikingly original.  I (in my admittedly limited capacity as sci-fi critic) can think of nothing like it in the genre.  But perhaps that is due to its genre-defying capabilities.  The Thing Itself is a Kant-machine for generating implications of taking the idea of the thing itself literally, and to its most logical conclusions.  There are implications for space-time, which is why this review is wrapped up in a critique of non-representational geographical reason.  The novum, in short, is the thing itself, as time-machine, as bomb, as computational enabler, and many other things, many of which are given their own distinct chapters for exploration.  A couple of these chapters feel like short stories, but they feel no less like parts of a novel for that.

Kant, Immanuel.  1989.  Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith.  London: Macmillan Education.

Massey, Doreen.  2005.  For Space.  London: Sage.

Nahin, Paul J.  2011.  Time Travel: A Writer's Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.

Roberts, Adam.  2015.  The Thing Itself.  London: Victor Gollancz.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Notes on Norman Kemp Smith's Kant: TIME

Maybe I'm reading too much into a novel.  Maybe not.  I find, reading Adam Roberts' brilliant science fiction novel The Thing Itself, that Roberts is following his own rule.  That is, the one given in his guide to writing science fiction, also known as his Gold Rule: 'Show, don't tell' (Roberts, 2014).

The Thing Itself shows the reader (who, I posit, is in all probability a science fiction reader, and therefore more likely than most readers to be an active participant in the cultural milieu of the writer and potentially a writer him/her-self (Roberts, 2006)) what it means to construct a performatively heterogeneous world.

The world of The Thing Itself, as a heterogeneously performative one, is distinctly preferable to that of, for example, Doreen Massey in her book For Space, where she asserts that heterogeneity is something worth wanting in and of itself, and she asserts this without evidence, and as a statement, furthermore, with political intent.

Instead of a tedious quote from Massey, I will here assert with Kant (and Roberts) that heterogeneity is a property of the cognitive structure of being human and it is, furthermore, chalk-full of representational content that largely gives the structure its content.  It is part of a dialectic of inside/outside that maps onto time/space quite precisely.  The origin of this dialectic springs ultimately from the thing itself.

Roberts novel maps onto the Kantian dialectic very nicely, while at the same time producing a cognitively diverse set of responses to The Critique of Pure Reason (translation used by Roberts: unknown).   There is, truing to the fundamental dialectic of the thing itself of Kant, a mix of the interior and the exterior in terms of the locale of narrativity of the various voices found in The Thing Itself.  There are many.  We switch, in ten chapters, between several with the longest being 'A Solid Gold Penny', corresponding to Kant's category of Limitation.

The beauty of the heterogeneous narrativity of The Thing Itself lies also in its compulsive readability.  The cognitive structure of a main character corresponding to each 'fragment' chapter is set up and then fulfilled through the production of a stream of representations.  In the Solid Gold Penny section, we have a sort of Molly Bloom cognition that is inhabited by a child who evolves through the course of the section to the point where this chapter alone constitutes a short story or mini-novel in itself.

There are alternating chapters that continue the thread of the ongoing conflict between Roy and Charles who become united in their opposition to an evil AI, product of 'The Institute' that has 'solved' the problem of 'the thing itself' by accessing it through computing devices that do not hold the same cognitive limitations as humans.  They are thus able to directly access the thing itself because computer intelligences are not limited by the products of human evolution: brains structured specifically with underlying hardware that automatically 'see' the world structured in terms of time and space.

Time, in Roberts, is given as careful consideration as space, and it is structured logically according to various psychologies, times, and places in which the characters find themselves situated, from the 'olden days' of the Golden Coin chapter, to a futuristic one in which genders and times alike have become blurred almost beyond recognition.  There is an experimental quality to these chapters that feels true somehow to the spirit of Kant, for whom time:

"is therefore to be regarded as real, not indeed as object but as the mode of representation of myself as object" (Kant, 1989, page 79).

I cannot help but think, when reading Massey (2005) that not only does she incessantly 'tell' (as opposed to showing), but that she completely misses the fundamental dialectic of space-time, that of the body and its structuring devices.  She misses out too on the space-times of science fiction, as for example explained not only by Roberts himself (2006 and 2014), but by expert 'hard' science fiction writers like Nahin (2011), who demonstrate (i.e. 'show') what is and is not possible, logically and in light of the given theory and evidence, in time and space travel.

It is much more exciting to be told about space-time in a story like Roberts' The Thing Itself.  I wish the reading (both popular and academic) portions of the world had more space (and time) for this kind of thing.

[To Be Continued]


Kant, Immanuel.  1989.  Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith.  London: Macmillan Education.

Massey, Doreen.  2005.  For Space.  London: Sage.

Nahin, Paul J.  2011.  Time Travel: A Writer's Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.

Roberts, Adam.  2006.  The History of Science Fiction.  Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Roberts, Adam.  2014.  Get Started in Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy.  London: John Murray.

Roberts, Adam.  2015.  The Thing Itself.  London: Victor Gollancz.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Notes on Norman Kemp Smith's Kant: SPACE

Space (Kant, 1989, pages 67-74)

Why are (as a colleague remarked to me in the hallway on the way to a meeting) so many geographers afraid to talk about space?

Perhaps they are afraid of becoming a bit like Roy Curtius in Roberts (2015, page 1) The Thing Itself: "Sick in the Head."  Let's talk about Roy for a moment before returning to the pariah-status of space in the discipline of geography.

We find out in chapter 1 of The Thing Itself that Roy (antagonist) is stuck with Charles (protagonist) on a research base in Antarctica.  It is just the two of them (a bit unlikely), and it turns out that Roy is a terrible roommate, a bit of a Sheldon Cooper know-it-all mixed together (as we find out later) with a Machiavellian silence-of-the-lambs side.  Roy is reading the Meiklejohn translation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

True, it is pretentious to read Kant (unless you are a Kant scholar or are writing a very cool novel based on his ideas), and to leave your copy of it lying around so people can see that you are reading Kant, and to discuss Kant with people who are not interested in it might be considered a sign of poor social skills or worse.  Roy should have put me off reading Kant.  However, it is Roberts novel as a whole that overwhelmingly corrected that negative reaction, way over towards a positive one, that of really really wanting to read the Critique now that I'd finished The Thing Itself.

To leave behind any doubt as to the coolness of reading Kant, and to throw it back in Roy's face, I decided (like, not long ago) that it was in fact the Meiklejohn translation that made people cray-cray when reading Kant, and not the fact of Kant himself.  This, and reading Taylor's The Language Animal in which he cites the Smith translation, and the fact that the Smith translation is more in the spirit of Kant's self-description of the Critique as a literary (perhaps even more than a philosophical) undertaking, that I now thought to myself: I can handle this if I take it as a work of literature, and Smith's Kant seems to embody that notion.

Now when I say space has a pariah-status in the discipline of geography, this is true in spite of efforts of scholars like Massey (2005) and Soja (1989) to re-invigorate and liven-up the spatial.  These efforts were (and are) necessary because geographers remain enamoured of place.  But I would argue that Massey (but not so much Soja) in fact end up doing space a disservice by insisting on its non-representationality.

I have come (again) to pages 67-74 of Smith's Critique (Kant, 1989), the initiation to Kant's views on space, reaching a crescendo on pages 72-73.  Without a doubt, Kant views space as a representation, to the extent that he almost equates the two (space/representation), except for the fact of its ideality.  The is a massive exception to the 'rule' that space, in Kant, equals representation.  In fact Kant makes it very clear (as does Roberts) that space as a 'substance' underlying objects out there in the world is no thing at all.  Space is just an (shared, transcendental) idea that is part and parcel of what it means to be human, and not a property of the world itself.

Kant (1989) talks a lot, on pages 72-73 especially, about things-in-themselves, and it is here, I suspect, that the whole logic of Kant's dialectic is ultimately derived:

"we cannot treat the special conditions of sensibility as conditions of the possibility of things, but only of their appearances, we can indeed say that space comprehends all things that appear to us as external, but not all things in themselves..."

Take that NRT!  Kant says, almost surreally, that space comprehends things.  He (Kant, 1989) goes on to say:

"We assert, then, the empirical reality of space, as regards all possible outer experience; and yet at the same time we assert its transcendental ideality -- in other words, that it is nothing at all, immediately we withdraw the above condition, namely, its limitation to possible experience, and so look upon it as something that underlies things in themselves."

When Kant/Smith says that space is nothing at all, I immediately have doubts as to what extent Kant is the reactionary I have sometimes made him out to be!  He sounds positively Thriftian (2007)!

So, here I am, at the edge of a conversion....to what?  Back to NRT (no, for now)?  To science fiction (I have been a sci-fi fan since adolescence, and The Thing Itself is a bit of a departure for me because I tend to favour hard/extrapolative sci-fi if I'm being honest)?

If there is any truth to the idea that mere repetition of words/phrases leads to belief in their validity/truth then Kant//Smith must've been aware of it, for we have a third mention (Kant, 1989, pages 73-74) in these two (and-a-half) pages of the thing itself:

"The transcendental concept of appearances in space, on the other hand, is a critical reminder that nothing intuited in space is a thing itself, that space is not a form inhering in things in themselves as their intrinsic property, that objects in themselves are quite unknown to us, and that what we call outer objects are nothing but mere representations of our sensibility, the form of which is space"

The problem now, is that Kant has to prove this, which is as it stands a mere assertion.  At the same time, at least for now, this (Smith's) Kant is so immanently readable, so literary, that I was half the time thinking about writers like Cormac McCarthy, Christopher Dewdney, and Erin Moure (ok my taste in literature also runs smack into Canadian avant-garde poetry).

That is to say, I'm hooked, thanks in no small part to Roberts and Smith!  Now, back to Kant.

[This is an ongoing review of Kant/Roberts, to be continued]


Kant, Immanuel.  1989.  Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith.  London: Macmillan Education.

Massey, Doreen.  2005.  For Space.  London: Sage.

Roberts, Adam.  2015.  The Thing Itself.  London: Victor Gollancz.

Soja, Edward.  1989.  Postmodern Geographies.  London and New York: Verso.

Thrift, Nigel.  2007.  Non-representational theory: space, politics, affect.  Abingdon and New York: Routledge.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Notes on Norman Kemp Smith's Kant


There are two main inspirations for even beginning to think about reading Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (i.e. the translation of Kant made by Norman Kemp Smith).  The first was Charles Taylor’s book Hegel, which covers some of Kant (that part related to dialectics).  The second was Adam Roberts’ book The Thing Itself, which gives a fictional treatment of the Critique (though not the Kemp Smith version specifically).

Taylor also mentions Kant in his newer book The Language Animal, citing Kemp’s translation specifically.  This was the final straw that broke my resistance to committing to reading Kant’s most important work, translated by his most important English-language translator.  Taylor himself has always had a big influence on my writing, in terms of both style and content.  Taylor's take on Kant (and his translator) matters a great deal to counter-mapping mainly for getting dialectics right.  The latter requires philosophical sophistication, subtlety, and style.

I’m also writing a book on dialectics that explicitly avoids both Hegel and Marx.  And without those two elephants in the room, and with the above intellectual supports in place, I can begin to think through some of the implications of Kant for my book (Contrapuntal Cartographies) that takes a dialectical approach to counter-mapping.  The latter, being properly dialectical and therefore political, will undertake a constant excavation of taken-for-granted assumptions and bases for the production of powerful mappings of- and in-the-world. 

In a way, I'm looking for a critique of non-representational theory 'from the beyond', from before Hegel, Bergson, and Jameson launched their critiques.  A large part of the continuing momentum of NRT is carried forward in the discipline of geography with theorists like Massey and Thrift at the leading edge.  Massey's For Space deals much too casually with questions of representation/space, and her main point that space is seen as fixed and dead is somewhat close to that made by Soja in 1989 in Postmodern Geographies.

So, reading Kemp's Kant is a way of critiquing the critique, but also of being right at its leading edge as well.  For counter-mapping, or mapping against hegemony, it is the hegemony of NRT that is ripe for critique and re-mapping.  I propose to take a more-than-representational approach that brings in evolutionary theories and memetics, and also a good dose of dialectics (including Kant).  An occasional geographer will be useful in this endeavour (e.g. Lorimer's 2005 intervention in Progress in Human Geography), but more often it will be philosophers, anthropologists, even biologists I might disagree with (thinking Dawkins and indeed Kant here) who will 'come to the rescue'.  And then I'll fold it all back into counter-mapping and geographical thought. 

Philosopher Rowlands, in New Science of the Mind, and anthropologist Malafouris, in How Things Shape the Mind, take on questions of representation in ways that geographers do not seem ready to do.  The all-too-easy geographical (NRT) critique remains mired in post-structuralism and even, at times, a kind of happy-go-lucky Nietzschean nihilism.  What Rowlands and Malafouris do, in their separate ways, is to give questions of representation the treatment they deserve by carefully sifting through the various arguments for and against, accepting and rejecting aspects that do or do not fit the facts and frameworks at hand, and making judgements and conclusions based only upon whether the theories fit the facts, without speculation.  In short, there is too much speculation in geography.

Kant is just the medicine for the speculative turn in geography, and for naive thinking in general (but also unfortunately in geography very specifically).  His thinking is idealistic, which will also rub many geographers trained in 'materialities' and 'spatialities' thinking the wrong way, going against an ingrained framework that is only superficially hard-headed.  The problem with much recent theorising in geography is in fact its lack of grounding in useful questions, in useful theory!  It is, in fact, (as for example in McCormack's 2017 lead paper in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers) an a-theoretical approach to questions of geography, lacking robust empirical and methodological grounding, and epitomised by the post-phenomenological, affective, speculative, and circumstantial, all terms currently favoured in the current paradigm of geographical thought. 

To put it another way: Kant's just the antidote.

Contrapuntal Cartographies: Dialectics of Counter-Mapping (McGill-Queen's University Press) is expected to be on shelves by 2019

Kant, Immanuel.  1989.  Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith.  London: Macmillan Education.

Lorimer, Hayden.  2005.  "Cultural geography: the busyness of being `more-than-representational'" Progress in Human Geography.  29(1): 83-94.

Malafouris, Lambros.  2013.  How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Massey, Doreen.  2005.  For Space.  London: Sage.

McCormack, Derek P.  2017.  "The circumstances of post-phenomenological life-worlds" Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.  42(1): 2-13.

Roberts, Adam.  2015.  The Thing Itself.  London: Victor Gollancz.

Rowlands, Mark.  2010.  The New Science of the Mind: From Extended Mind to Embodied Phenomenology.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Soja, Edward.  1989.  Postmodern Geographies.  London and New York: Verso.

Taylor, Charles.  2016.  The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Taylor, Charles.  1975.  Hegel.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.