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There is continue debate that imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception. This is so partly because it has been believed that the senses do not merely afford us impressions but also put them together, and produce images of objects, for which without doubt something more than the receptivity of impressions is required, namely a function of the synthesis of them. One of the basic ideas that emerges in this passage is that Kant thinks the empiricist has gone wrong in explaining a particular feature of perception, viz., how a distinctive type of perceptual representation, an image, is produced.1 Whereas the empiricist maintains that images are produced by means of our receptive sensible capacities, Kant argues that ‘something more’ is required. He identifies this something more as the synthetic activity of the imagination: “There is thus an active faculty of the synthesis of the manifold [of sense] in us, which we call the imagination. For the imagination is to bring the manifold of intuition into an image”. What thus emerges in this context is Kant’s commitment to the central role that the imagination and its activity of image formation play in perception.2

There are many definitions and theories of perception. Most define perception as the process of recognizing (being aware of), organizing (gathering and storing), and interpreting (binding to knowledge) sensory information. Perception deals with the human senses that generate signals from the environment through sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Vision and audition are the well understood. Simply put, perception is the process by which we interpret the world around us, forming a mental representation of the environment. This representation is not isomorphic to the world, but it’s subject to many correspondence differences and errors. The brain makes assumptions about the world to overcome the inherent ambiguity in all sensory data, and in response to the task at hand.

A centerpiece of Immanuel Kant phenomenology of Perception is an analysis of perceptual experience. On the face of it, Kant appear to be approaching perception from diametrically opposed positions: whereas Kant’s explanation of perception turns on an analysis of how our minds process various representations, like intuitions and concepts. According to Kant, there are two basic mental capacities involved in perceptual experience, what he calls ‘sensibility’ and ‘understanding’. Sensibility is a passive capacity by means of which we are receptive to the causal influence of the world, e.g. when our senses present us with a champagne flute.3 When this happens, Kant thinks sensibility produces ‘intuitions’, which he defines as representations of the particular object given to us here and now, e.g. of this flute.4 Meanwhile, the understanding is our active, spontaneous capacity for making judgments about the world, e.g. judging that this is a champagne flute.5 It produces ‘concepts’, which Kant defines as representations of the general features or properties of objects, e.g. champagne-fluteness.6 Now, given that sensibility is our capacity for being affected by the world, whereas understanding is our capacity for actively thinking about the world, and given that intuitions are singular representations, whereas concepts are general ones, the question arises: how can these seemingly different capacities with their seemingly different representations come together for the sake of perceptual experience?7

If Kant were a thoroughgoing intellectualist, we might expect him to argue that the understanding is capable of effecting this mediation. However, this is not what Kant does; instead, he turns to a capacity other than our conceptual one, viz., the ‘imagination’: “Both extremes, namely sensibility and understanding, must necessarily be connected by means of this transcendental function of the imagination. Further questions, implied by the main one, are: Does perception necessarily require concepts? What does it mean that perception involves or does not involve concepts? How do empirical concepts, on the one hand, and non-empirical concepts, on the other, differ from each other in this respect? How are the Kantian categories supposed to be featured in perception?

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this essay is to give a vivid assessment of Immanuel Kant analysis of perception and his account of how the imagination forms images in perception. It will further look at the connection to the imagination, and their role in perception in his metaphysics Lectures.


The thesis of the essay states that imagination and image formation have a role to play in Kant’s account of perception.


The method to be adopted in this essay will be conceptual clarification, analytical and historical.


Scope and Limitation

This essay will limit its scope to Immanuel Kant analysis of perception, with a view to criticize its and to see various arguments made for and against it and to evaluate it.

Sources of Material

The materials to be used for the essay shall be gotten from journal, articles, historical records, textbooks, conference proceeding, newspapers and magazines as well as materials sourced from internet.

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