Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Daniel Breazeale


Kant’s theory of productive imagination falls at the center of the critical project. This is evident in the 1781 Critique of Pure Reason, where Kant claims that the productive imagination is a “fundamental faculty of the human soul” and indispensable for the construction of experience. And yet, in the second edition of 1787 Kant seemingly demotes this imagination as a mere “effect of the understanding on sensibility” and all but withdraws its place from the Transcendental Deduction.

In his 1929 Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Martin Heidegger provided an explanation for the revisions between 1781 and 1787. Heidegger suggested that the Critique was supposed to be a foundation for Kant’s metaphysics of morals, which holds that practical reason is freely bound by a categorical imperative. Yet after 1781 Kant recognized that the Critique implicates the productive imagination as the “unknown root” of the faculties of understanding and sensibility. If the 1781 Critique reveals this imagination to be the source of theoretical rules and practical imperatives, then, according to Heidegger, Kant could not but “shrink back” from this shocking discovery. A faculty so intimately tied to sensibility, and hence contingency and particularity, is a poor progenitor of freedom and universal rules.

I think there is some truth to Heidegger’s explanation. But I also think there is something more important to draw from the revisions between 1781 and 1787. In this dissertation, I assume that something about the productive imagination did frighten Kant. But, pace Heidegger, I do not think that Kant shrank back from his initial position. Rather, I argue that the revisions clarify a theory that was implicit in 1781 but made explicit by 1787. If the imagination is a power for representation, which is at times a dream and at times a veridical experience, then the difference lies in the rule according to which the construction of the representation is bound. Furthermore, I argue that Kant’s revisions reveal a duty to bind the reproductive imagination according to a common concept, what Kant sometimes refers to as common sense. This is what I call the theoretical imperative.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)