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.

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