Transcendental Logic

Carl H. Flygt

September, 2005


The pure categories of the understanding, when combined with the modes of pure sensibility, or with one another, yield a large number of derivative a priori concepts. To note, and, where possible, to give a complete inventory of these concepts, would be a useful and not unpleasant task.

-Kant, Critique of Pure Reason


By means of the application of general logic, different representations are brought under a concept. By means of transcendental logic, by way of contrast, the imaginability of representation is brought into conceptual form. Objects are given in perception as representations. They appear under aspects, profiles, perspectives. Thoughts, in contrast, appear completely to transcend mere aspect or mere perspective. Perhaps thoughts, in formal essence, are not representational at all. The question before the seminar is about the possibility of object-dependent or demonstrative thought. Does such thought reach all the way to the object? If so, in what way? In general, is pure thought in some sense de re, or is it truly independent of the objective world?


Our thoughts of the object, our concepts, go beyond perspective. It is as if they jump to a higher dimension, a dimension incommensurable with mere perception. They go inside the object and all the way around it all at once. Following Sartre, when I think of a cube by a concrete concept, I think of its six sides and its eight angles at the same time; I think that its angles are right angles and that its sides are squares. I am at the centre of my idea, I apprehend its entirety in one glance. Naturally, this is not to say that my idea does not need to be completed by a progression of concepts. But I can think the concrete essences in a single act of consciousness; I do not need to recover images, I have no necessary apprenticeship to serve. Such is without doubt the clearest difference between thought and perception.


Now what happens when we think about “this dagger?” Here clearly the thought comes together with a perception, an experience of the “dagger.” If we follow Kant, the perception is the object, but not the object in itself. The object in itself is part of a genuinely independent order. For the reality of the dagger-in-itself, to rise (or to sink) to the level of representation, it must be thought, conceptualized, made intentional. A transcendental logic must be applied. Its imaginability must be brought into a set of conceptual categories. The object itself, heretofore unintelligible and truly independent of thought, then coheres in the imagination, in the perceptual imagination. It constitutes the experience, but only as a representation, as an imagination. As such, it is nothing more and nothing less than the Fregean sense of the object in itself.


As for the locution “this,” one might think it is merely a representation of something actionable. It represents a capacity to point at, to gesture toward, to demonstrate the object itself. It is not essentially connected with the transcendental logic of perceiving the “dagger.” It comes from the other side of the nervous system, from the active, voluntary side. It is not, on the face of it at least, part of the form of receptivity.


Now the mechanism of the transcendental logic of the perceived object is, of course, the unity of consciousness. This consciousness is often so faint that we cannot connect it with the generation of the representation, but only with the outcome. But this consciousness must always be actively present for an experience of any sort of object to occur. This consciousness is the actual author of the object as it appears. The object as appearance is constituted by the exercise of a faculty common to all life and all sentience, the faculty of transcendental logic.


The unity of consciousness, of course, is nothing more and nothing less than the self. It is the condition which makes it possible to apply the synthesis of imagination to any thing-in-itself, whether densely material and present or deeply referential and far away. But in both the case of natural perception and in the case of conceptual reference, the connection in and by means of the transcendental unity of apprehension is causal. We know the reference of our representations because these representations stand in a causal relationship with the actual things in themselves to which they refer. These causal connections, in principle, are just as direct in the case of the object of demonstrative reference (“this dagger”) as in the case of the object of discursive reference (e.g. “Julius Caesar”).


Transcendental logic is applied always and everywhere by all forms of life. It is the mechanism of organic growth, and of all learning, which is a form of growth. It is the feeling out into the super-conscious abyss for intelligibles, for Fregean senses, which, once apprehended, become an actual part of the organism as perception, form or memory. The irritability of the paramecium, the shape of the cypress tree, and the consciousness of the cat are all applications of transcendental logic by a form of living sentience.


These elements of selfhood, of causation, of growth and of in-formation (memory) can be arranged, for scientific and cultural purposes, into a form of transcendental logic I call pure conversation. Pure conversation aims to utilize an exhaustive taxonomy of all possible human and all possible super-human experience, socially constituted. Pure conversation is an original spiritual condition to be placed on contemporary human experience, much of which is merely under-developed, under-utilized and under-functional. It is, on Kant’s original intention to give metaphysics the secure and rigorous form of a natural science, a direct exercise of transcendental logic. It is also an effort to develop a new form of life, a literal etheric and enactive organism constituted by our bodies and our self-conscious social experience.


Anyone interested in exercising real conversation needs to be clear when he (she) is engaged in the mere exercise of general logic, which is helpless to expand consciousness into etheric and super-sentient dimensions, and when he (she) is actually using transcendental logic, which is the essence of spiritual growth and understanding. My approach to conversation makes this distinction exceedingly clear by beginning an enumeration and an indexing of the a priori concepts governing social self-consciousness. Transcendental logic, in the spiritual human being, is nothing more and nothing less than meditation and the meditative attitude. On my theory, to engage in real conversation, we must be adept with meditation and imagination as well as with concepts. Through meditation, and only through it, is the human being able to penetrate beyond appearances and to transform thought into actual deed. In pure conversation, when we think about this dagger, our senses are heightened and the dagger flashes forth in an aesthetic wholeness. In pure conversation, when we refer to Julius Caesar, the spirit of Caesar himself descends into the room and makes himself felt.


Now McDowell is clear that meditation (he calls it the “receptivity of sensibility”) plays a transcendental role in consciousness. It allows the objects of experience to be conceived as things in themselves, and for us to take the sorts of actions on them that we are prone to do. Meditation (sensibility) always has an object, however opaque, and this object is given, to the extent that it is, through conceptual categories, categories of imagination. By means of this imagination, it becomes possible to conceive the object in itself. But if we learn to alter the imagination a little through a more fundamental social contract, to use the categorical predicates a little more artistically, as we all instinctively wish to do, and to remain true to an objective and world-based semantics, what we heretofore imagined as the object must become a greater, more aesthetic and living object, closer in all likelihood to the thing in itself that would otherwise have been causing some experience anyway.