Gunnar Olsson on Reading Kant’s Geography

A detailed and very generous review (which becomes much more) of Reading Kant’s Geography by Gunnar Olsson in Geografiska Annaler B: Human Geography (requires subscription):

So hot are the connections between the geography/anthropology courses and Kant’s overall philosophy that the critics have not been able to wait for the Physical Geography to appear but are hungrily rushing to explore them. Such is the context of Reading Kant’s Geography, a timely collection of eighteen essays woven into a coherent matrix by the two editors Stuart Elden and Eduardo Mendieta. A splendid job, by its nature an inherently interdisciplinary endeavour, at the same time a window to the past and a gateopener to the future…

And here is one of the few quarrels I have with the editors who chose to entitle this section as ‘Kant’s geography of reason’ and not as ‘Kant’s cartographic reason’. For what is at stake is not the particular geographic knowledge that the Königsberger happened to catch in his conceptual net, but the structure of the net itself. ‘It is, therefore, just as necessary to make our concepts sensible, that is, to add the object of them in the intuition, as to make our intuitions intelligible, that is, to bring them under concepts. These two powers or capacities cannot exchange their functions. The understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise. But that is no reason for confounding the contribution of either with that of the other; rather it is a strong reason for carefully separating the one from the other’ (Kant 2003, A51/B75). It follows that a priori knowledge is possible only under the provision that the objects of experience conform to the constitution of our minds, only if body and imagination can be perfectly mapped one onto the other. The ensuing power struggle is by definition a struggle over limits, the struggle over limits itself a matter of drawing a line, of pointing and naming.

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