Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher (1724-1804).

The philosopher of representation and of rules. The big question is how his thoughts on each of those topics fit together. Brandom claims he has a rulish perspective on what it is for something to be a representation: for to be represented by is:

  • to be subject to ’s standards of correctness;
  • has authority over ;
  • is responsible (for its correctness as a representation) to .

On Locke

The “celebrated Mr. Locke” (i.e. empiricism) offered “a mere physiology of the understanding.” 1

Kant read Hume’s problem of getting from ‘is’ to ‘ought’ and his problem of getting from ‘is’ to ‘must be’ as two sides of one coin: the challenge is to understand necessity (both practical necessity (morals) and theoretical necessity (alethic modal necessity)).

Kantian problematic

Brandom writes that Kant transformed the Cartesian problematic from an epistemic one to a semantic one.

  • He shifts the center of attention from truth and justification to the nature of representation itself.
  • He replaces concern with justifying claims by concern with understanding representational purport.
  • His problem is not “show that reality is often as it appears”, but rather “understand what it is for things so much as to appear to be one way rather than another.”
  • The epistemological equation has semantic presuppositions, which he challenges.

Kant thinks that answering the semantic skeptic will also address the epistemic skeptic.

  • Specifying conditions under which there could be representations at all requires that there is a substantial degree of representational success. If we are not to a large extent right about representations, we can’t make sense of being wrong. This idea is echoed by Davidson and Putnam’s responses to skeptics.


  • The tradition Kant inherited thought of judgment as predicating
    • i.e. classifying objects as being particular kinds
    • Kant considers many other forms of judgment: modal, conditional, disjunctive, negative
  • What distinguishes knowers from non-sapient creatures is not that they involve special mental processes, but rather that their judgments are in a distinctive way something they are responsible for.
    • minded creatures are not distinguished by an ontological distinction but rather a deontological one.

External resources


  1. A 85-7 / B 117-9 (from the Critique of Pure Reason)