The Fate of the Act of Synthesis

Kant, Frege, and Husserl on the Role of Subjectivity in Presentation and Judgment


  • Jacob Rump Creighton University



I investigate the role of the subject in judgment in Kant, Frege, and Husserl, situating it in the broader and less-often-considered context of their accounts of presentation (Vorstellung) as well as judgment. Contemporary philosophical usage of “representation” tends to elide the question of what Kant called the constitution of content, because of a reluctance, traced to Frege’s anti-psychologism, to attend to subjectivity. But for Kant and Husserl, anti-psychologism allows for synthesis as the subjective act necessary for both “mere presentation” and judgment. In Begriffshrift, Frege alludes to a significant logical role for the subjective act of judgment, and in later work, traces of this logical role remain in the intensional notions of grasping a thought and judging as acknowledging its truth. But Frege’s anti-psychologism blocks interpreting these subjective notions in term of synthesis. Although similar in certain ways to Frege and equally anti-psychologistic, Husserl’s theory of judgment in the Logical Investigations maintains a role for subjective syntheses for presentations and judgments, and goes beyond Kant in allowing for a kind of objectivity at the level of non-judgment presentations. These two great anti-psychologists at the dawn of the parallel heydays of linguistic and phenomenological analysis are thus differentiated by the fates they assign to the act of synthesis.


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