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Visualizing Kant's Capacities for Cognition  

This page features visualizations of the relationships between our Higher and Lower Capacities for Cognition. They are our Higher, Spontaneous Understanding (in the wide sense) and our Lower, Receptive Sensibility.

Understanding comprises the sub-capacities of Reason, Understanding (in the narrow sense), and the Power of Judgment.

Sensibility comprises the sub-capacities of Imagination, Inner Sense, and Outer Sense.

As Kant makes especially clear in the third Critique of the Power of Judgment, the power of judgment (which subsumes the particular under the universal) has two "modes":

  • a reflecting one that searches particular representations in order to generate a universal concept that is common to more than one representation, and

  • a determining one that takes a universal concept and determines a particular representation as falling under  this concept.


Since sensibility generates sensible representations (which are inherently singular and particular) and understanding in the narrow sense is the capacity for concepts (which are inherently general/universal), the subsuming function of the power of judgment allows it to play a mediating role between these higher and lower capacities for cognition.

Our capacities for cognition relate to the fundamental capacities of the mind (for Cognition, Pleasure/Displeasure and Desire) by directing them to bring about certain products according to a priori principles inherent in the nature of our capacities for cognition, which make these products possible.

For more information on (and visualizations of) the architectonic structure of these capacities and how they relate, you can go here.

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