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Epistemic normativity in Kant's “Second Analogy”

Abstract

In the “Second Analogy,” Kant argues that, unless mental contents involve the concept of causation, they cannot represent an objective temporal sequence. According to Kant, deploying the concept of causation renders a certain temporal ordering of representations necessary, thus enabling objective representational purport. One exegetical question that remains controversial is this: how, and in what sense, does deploying the concept of cause render a certain ordering of representations necessary? I argue that this necessitation is a matter of epistemic normativity: with certain causal presuppositions in place, the individual is obliged to make a judgment with certain temporal contents, on pain of irrationality. To make this normatively obligatory judgment, the subject must place her perceptual representations in a certain order. This interpretation fits Kant's text, his argumentative aims, and his broader views about causal inference, better than rival interpretations can. This result has important consequences for the ongoing debate over the role of normativity in Kant's philosophy of mind.

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