Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Frederick Beiser


In one of his more famous Reflexionen, Kant wrote that the year 1769 gave him a “great light.” The first major publication to appear in the wake of Kant’s “great light” is the Inaugural Dissertation, a work in which he articulated some of his most characteristic doctrines for the very first time. Among these various doctrines, perhaps the most famous is Kant’s novel theory of time and space. In particular, there are two central claims which Kant attempts to establish about time and space in the Dissertation. First, that our representations of time and space are not empirical concepts acquired by abstraction from what is given by sensation, and second, that these representations do not belong to the faculty of intellect, but are instead fundamentally sensory. The goal of the present dissertation is to provide a reconstruction and analysis of the arguments Kant advanced in support of these two claims. In order to lay the groundwork for my reconstruction, in the first two chapters I provide a detailed analysis of Kant’s account of the faculties of sense and intellect in the Dissertation, as well as a novel interpretation of what ultimately grounds the distinction between these two faculties. Against the standard interpretations—according to which the distinction between sense and intellect is grounded either on the difference between singular and general representations or on whether a representation is passively received or actively generated—I argue that in the Dissertation this distinction is ultimately grounded on the difference between those representations whose intentional content is abstract and those which are concrete. I show that this interpretation is not only supported by a considerable amount of textual evidence, but also that it has a great deal of explanatory power, and can resolve a number of apparent inconsistencies in ID. In the third chapter, I then show how each of Kant’s central claims about the representations of time and space are directed against an alternative account defended by Gottfried Leibniz and Christian Wolff, and I provide an exposition of this latter account in order to shed light on Kant’s overall aims and strategy. On the basis of the results obtained in the first three chapters, in the fourth chapter I then reconstruct the arguments Kant advanced to show that the representations of time and space are non-empirical, while the fifth chapter provides an interpretation of the arguments designed to show that these representations are fundamentally sensory rather than intellectual.


Open Access

Available for download on Wednesday, June 12, 2024