A Proposal for Translating Heidegger’s Interpretation of Kant

Morganna Lambeth1


Translators of Heidegger’s interpretations of other thinkers face a challenge: they must contend not only with Heidegger’s distinctive choice of words, but also the terminology of his subject, whether it be Aristotle, Kant, or Schelling. The response by and large has been to focus on Heidegger’s turns of phrase, at the expense of the thinker he interprets. In this paper, I challenge this practice, using Heidegger’s interpretive works on Kant as a test case. If we overlook the terms of the author Heidegger interprets, we miss a major source of Heidegger’s phrasing, and lose the connotations that he invokes by using these terms. Further, such translations reinforce the damaging assumption that Heidegger’s interpretations venture far off-topic. I argue that when Heidegger references Kantian turns of phrase, these terms should be translated to match the standard English translation of Kant, and show how following this method of translation deepens our understanding of Heidegger’s Kant interpretation. In the appendix, I provide two passages exemplifying this method of translation.

Heidegger’s German poses notorious difficulties for translation. His positive philosophical treatises attempt to transform philosophy by abandoning traditional philosophical jargon. Rather, his chosen language plays with etymology, emphasizing roots, stems, and relationships between everyday terms. To do justice to the richness of his language, English translators have employed a number of strategies: leaving certain key terms untranslated (e.g. “Dasein”), capitalizing central terms of art (e.g. “Being”), finding everyday terms in English that approximate his meaning,2 and embracing Heidegger’s use of the hyphen (e.g. “Being-in-the-world”).

Translators of Heidegger’s interpretations of other thinkers face an additional hurdle: they must contend not only with his distinctive choice of words, but also the terminology of his subject, whether it be Aristotle, Schelling, or Kant. The typical response to this problem is illustrated by Joan Stambaugh’s translation of Heidegger’s course on Schelling: while she uses a standard translation of Schelling to translate direct quotes from his treatise, “much of the terminology in the Heidegger text was chosen with an eye toward Heidegger’s own interpretation rather than Schelling’s treatise proper.”3 I will argue in what follows that this general approach to interpretation – that is, focusing on Heidegger’s turns of phrase, as opposed to the thinker he interprets – is discordant with Heidegger’s interpretive method.

Heidegger does not speak in the same voice in his interpretive works as he does when putting forward his own philosophical position, for example in much of Being and Time. When stating his own position, he “tends to discard much of the traditional philosophical terminology”4 (as John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson put it). However, when he interprets other thinkers, he adopts a terminology that is foreign to his ordinary way of writing. In his interpretation of Kant, for example, he adopts Kant’s own terms for the human faculties, referring to “understanding,” “sensibility,” and “imagination.” When translated, these interpretations should read differently than when Heidegger builds his own terminology in order to express his own philosophical positions.

Indeed, translating Heidegger’s interpretations with an eye toward the thinker he interprets reflects an important tenet of his interpretive method: Heidegger takes on the terms of that thinker in order to transform our understanding of that thinker from the inside out. This method gets lost when a translation obscures the terms of the thinker Heidegger interprets, such that the reader cannot track when Heidegger is appropriating a foreign terminology and when he is introducing his own terms. Further, such a translation reinforces the familiar criticism that he reads himself into the thinkers he interprets, as it obscures when and to what extent Heidegger engages with them. Adopting new principles of translation for Heidegger’s interpretive works, then, can help us to see both when this criticism is warranted, and conversely when Heidegger can in fact advance our understanding of the texts he interprets.

In what follows, I will propose new principles for translating Heidegger’s interpretive works, focusing on those dealing with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as a test case. Heidegger’s treatment of Kant is his first large-scale attempt at philosophical destruction, with his 1929 Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics exemplifying the interpretive method that Heidegger outlines in Being and Time (1927). Further, Kant remains a towering figure in contemporary Anglophone philosophy, so we might expect many readers to come to Heidegger’s interpretation with prior knowledge of Kant, and Kantian terms as they have been translated into English. For this reason, contemporary Anglophone readers are especially likely to benefit from a translation that preserves Kant’s terminology.

In the first section of this paper, I argue that we should translate Heidegger’s late-1920s interpretation of Kant with an eye toward the standard English translation of Kant. I argue for this method of translation by appealing to Heidegger’s own interpretive method, especially as it is carried out in these works. I then offer and defend two principles of translation for his interpretive works, and consider some objections to them. In the appendix, I offer two samples of my proposed method of translation, translating two separate paragraphs in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics as a proof of concept.


The extant English translations of Heidegger’s late-1920s interpretations of Kant seem to rely on the same practice employed by Stambaugh in her translation of the Schelling treatise: they endeavor to reflect Heidegger’s terminology more so than that of Kant.5 There are a few things to say in favor of this general approach to translation. First, Heidegger’s interpretive method is aimed at giving us a new reading of Kant – one that departs from the traditional reception of him. Given this aim, it might seem appropriate to likewise depart from the vocabulary found in traditional Kant interpretations, and rather translate Heidegger into novel terms that capture his unique way of reading Kant.6 Second, Heidegger’s discussion of Kant is rife with wordplay. Abandoning traditional vocabulary can facilitate capturing that wordplay in English, giving the translator the freedom to select English terms, say, that mimic common roots in the original German.

However, a method of translation that does not track Kantian terminology, as it has been translated into English, fails to do justice to Heidegger’s interpretive method in these works. While he does seek to interpret Kant anew, his method of developing that new interpretation involves “destroying” a traditional understanding of the text and pulling a new understanding out of Kant’s own words. Heidegger transforms our understanding of Kant from the inside out: he uses Kant’s words, but engages in wordplay that helps us hear new meanings in those terms and rethink what Kant is talking about when he uses them. This local work rethinking a single term allows Heidegger, more broadly, to draw new connections within Kant’s system of thought. A translation that captures wordplay without tracking the familiar Kantian vocabulary at its basis fails to capture what Heidegger is doing with that wordplay.

Let’s begin by briefly considering the existing translations of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, as well as the 1927–1928 lecture course that preceded the book, Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.7 Based on translators’ own accounts of their methods, Heidegger’s late-1920s interpretations of Kant have been translated in the same manner as statements of his positive philosophical position, like those found in Being and Time: questions about translating Heidegger’s unique terms are at the forefront, while the treatment of traditional philosophical terminology recedes into the background.

James Churchill was the first to translate Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics into English, in 1962. The “Translator’s Introduction” finds Churchill preoccupied with the familiar problems of translating Heidegger’s terms: for example, how to translate das Seiende (Churchill selects “essent”)8 and whether to leave Dasein untranslated (he does).9 However, he does not take up the issue of translating Kant’s terminology, outside of specifying that Kant’s pagination and quoted passages come from Norman Kemp Smith’s translation of the Critique of Pure Reason.10 While the direct quotations preserve the standard translation of Kant, examples to follow will show that the standard translations of Kant do not always inform Churchill’s translations of Heidegger’s prose, even when that prose takes up Kantian terminology.

Richard Taft offered a new translation of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics in 1990, releasing new editions of the translation as more material became available (e.g. Heidegger’s marginal notes on the book). Taft’s introductions to his translation (precisely, to the fourth and fifth editions) also focus on the problems of translating Heidegger, without commenting on how he will treat Kantian terminology; the finished product, Taft reports, “preserves the language and grammatical constructions used by Heidegger to the greatest extent possible.”11

Accordingly, both translators miss opportunities to bring out Heidegger’s appropriation of Kant’s terms. For example, Churchill remarks on how to translate Grundlegung according to the traditional German understanding of the term (opting for “laying of the foundation”),12 without acknowledging that Heidegger’s use of this term directly echoes how Kant frames his own inquiry (A3/B7). While Churchill’s “laying of the foundation” (and, later, Taft’s “laying the ground”) does some justice to the German meaning of Grundlegung, translations of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason opt for the simpler “foundation” (Guyer and Wood)13 or “foundations” (Kemp Smith).14 This translation choice may give the impression that Heidegger is taking liberties with Kant’s terms, when he is in fact using Kant’s terms.

The “Translator’s Foreword” to Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly’s 1997 translation of Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason likewise devotes considerable attention to the problems of interpreting Heidegger’s terms, though they do also reference Kant’s terms. They note, for example, that Heidegger maintains Kant’s distinction between Gegenstand and Objekt.15 Their way of translating these Kantian terms, however, is not informed by English translations of Kant. They distinguish the terms using a new English coinage: while Gegenstand is translated as the familiar “object,” Objekt is rendered “ob-ject.”16 Because translations of Kant use “object” to translate both Gegenstand and Objekt (distinguishing the latter term by way of a footnote), “ob-ject” could easily strike readers as one of Heidegger’s infamous neologisms over a familiar Kantian term. However, Emad and Maly do make some allowances for the English translation of Kant. For example, they accept Kemp Smith’s translation of das Beharrliche – “render[ing] das Beharrliche into English as ‘permanence’”17 – even while protesting that the translation does not do justice to Heidegger’s transformation of Kant’s term; for Heidegger, das Beharrliche connotes “staying power and…endurance” but not “ever-lasting” endurance, as the translation “permanence” seems to connote.18

I argue that we should pay more attention to Kant’s terminology than translations have so far. Our translations must show when Heidegger uses Kantian terminology, and the best way to do this is by adopting traditional English translations of those terms, systematically and without protest. A translation that preserves Kantian terminology as it has been translated into English does justice to Heidegger’s method in his interpretive works. This method is oriented toward adopting traditional terminology and transforming our understanding of those terms from the inside out. Examining the description of “destructive” interpretation in Being and Time, I argue that traditional terms play an integral role for interpretive destruction. Remembering that Destruktion is not purely negative (i.e. it is not a pure demolishment), I argue that traditional terms are required for both the “positive” and “negative side” of interpretive destruction (GA 2: 23/SZ 22).

On the negative side, when interpreting a philosophical text, “hardened tradition must be loosened up” (GA 2: 22/SZ 21). The destructive interpreter must not take the meaning of traditional philosophical terms to be “self-evident.” Heidegger clarifies, then, that the destructiveness of his interpretive style is directed more at today than it is at the past; it is aimed at meanings that have solidified, ideas that we take for granted in our current reception of some thinker. So, for example, in interpreting Kant, Heidegger questions the assumptions that were common among the Neo-Kantians of his time.

On the “positive” side of interpretive destruction, Heidegger argues that the destructive interpreter must not only loosen up hardened meanings, but also “stake out the positive possibilities of that tradition” (GA 2: 23/SZ 22). To do so, we must inquire into the “primordial ‘sources’” of an author’s terms (GA 2: 21/SZ 21). He instructs us, that is, to consider the concrete issue or subject matter that the author treats; after all, it is from this subject matter that the author’s terms are derived. Attending to the subject matter gives the interpreter a grip on the author’s terminology above and beyond the traditional reception. Further, considering the subject matter through the author’s claims about it provides insight into “those primordial experiences in which we achieved our first ways of determining the nature of Being” (GA 2: 22/SZ 22) – the subject matter, as the author would have experienced it. To get clear on how an author would have experienced some phenomenon, he indicates that it is crucial to attend to the “limits” of the author’s inquiry, which “are given factically in the way the question is formulated at the time, and in the way a possible field for investigation is thus bounded off” (GA 2: 23/SZ 22). That is, the destructive interpreter must take into account the question that the philosopher pursues – indeed, as the philosopher formulates it – and the scope of that investigation.

Heidegger’s interpretive method may seem like one that attempts to free itself from traditional terms, digging into the bedrock experiences that underlie those terms instead. But there is, practically speaking, no way to carry out the aims of philosophical destruction without tracking traditional terms. Heidegger’s interpretations of Kant were not a solitary exercise that Heidegger carried out for himself alone – rather, they were written, to an audience. In Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, he lectured to students who were reading Kant’s original text; in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, he addressed scholars who had become accustomed to the Neo-Kantian reading. Without using the terms of the interpreted author (that is, Kant), the interpreter cannot loosen up a reader’s understanding and replace it with a new understanding. For the method to work, they must all be on the same page – literally.

Kantian terminology must be employed for both the “negative” and “positive” sides of destruction. On the negative side, loosening up conceptual content requires keeping a traditional term fixed. The traditional term identifies the conceptual content targeted for destruction, the connotations that will be loosened up over the course of the interpretation. Further, developing the positive possibilities of Kant’s text requires reference to what Kant says. Even as the interpreter offers a new reading, that interpreter must attend to the limits of the inquiry, supplied by how the author formulates their questions and sets their scope. The new reading should be drawn out as a possible reading of this text. Indeed, Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant not only draws on the main terms that he hopes to loosen up and interpret afresh but also shows a careful development of Heidegger’s new reading (and his new terms for thinking through Kant’s project) from Kant’s own phrasing in the text. In destructive interpretation, the interplay between the author’s terms and the interpreter’s own terms (new to the traditional text) draws out the positive possibilities that the interpreter is developing; this new term freshly interprets that old claim.

For example, Heidegger rereads Kant’s term “receptivity” (Rezeptivität). On Kant’s view, human cognition – where one experiences something determinate, making sense of a being by appreciating it as a being of some kind (B137) – relies on both receptivity and spontaneity. More specifically, cognition requires: intuitions, a representation of some concrete particular, which humans have due to our receptivity (we can “acquire representations” of the world around us); and concepts, a representation that gathers the many under one, which humans have due to their spontaneity (we can organize intuitive information conceptually) (A19/B33). In Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Heidegger adopts Kant’s term “receptivity” and attempts to transform it from the inside out. Closely analyzing this term, he argues that it has a broader extension than even Kant appreciates.

In his analysis of “receptivity” (translated as Passage 1 in the appendix), Heidegger examines Kant’s own claims, in addition to introducing a new term that captures Heidegger’s own understanding of receptivity: hinnehmend, which can be translated as “taking-up.” His suggestion is that human cognition is receptive precisely in that it accepts or receives content, as in Kant’s discussion of intuition, where we take up sensible content that is given from without.

Heidegger’s ensuing discussion (translated as Passage 2 in the appendix) draws on this carefully developed sense of receptivity to argue that there is more receptivity in Kant’s system than Kant let on – and certainly more than Heidegger’s contemporary Marburg neo- Kantians let on, who sought to reduce the role of receptivity in Kant’s system.19 Specifically, Heidegger suggests that generating categories of the understanding (the a priori concepts that organize our experience) requires a receptive moment, even though understanding is supposed to be spontaneous through and through. As the basic ground rules governing our experience – such that everything we experience is causal, substantial, etc. – categories must not only be spontaneously created. They must also be accepted as binding – taken up as a constraint on our experience. This taking-up is comparable to the intuitive act that takes up or accepts content from without, though in this case, the content that is accepted is given to oneself (Sichgeben, GA 3: 154). In Heidegger’s view, arriving at the categories requires a double movement: a spontaneous creation of those concepts20 and a receptive uptake that accepts them as rules. Thus, he argues that there is receptivity at the very heart of Kantian spontaneity.

Heidegger’s discussions of receptivity reveal a careful interplay between Kant’s terms and Heidegger’s own. On the side of Kant’s terms, Heidegger draws centrally on “receptivity,” the target of his interpretive destruction, but also on nearby and related terms that help to develop his new reading of receptivity. For example, prior to introducing his new term, hinnehmend (“taking-up”), he uses a cluster of terms that have the verb leiten (“to lead”) as their stem; I will call these the leiten-cluster. Specifically, he directly quotes Kant’s abgeleitet, which Cambridge translates as “derived” or “derivative”; he also uses the word hergeleitet, which Kant uses in his discussion of intuition, and which is also usually translated as “derived” (B44, A32/B47). Heidegger uses these terms to suggest that intuition depends on beings for content – deriving content from those beings – before making his own suggestion that intuition “takes up.” While not a Kantian term, the new word draws out possibilities in Kant’s text.

A translation that reflects when Heidegger uses Kantian phrasing traces his destructive interpretive method. However, the extant translations do not consistently do this. For example, while they all use the standard translation of Kant’s term Rezeptivität (“receptivity”), they do not make it clear when Heidegger uses nearby Kantian phrasing to bolster his analysis of receptivity, and when, by contrast, he uses his own terms.

Taft translates these sentences thus (I include his bracketed German terms, but also an additional bracket to mark hinnehmend):

The intuited is derived [hergeleitet] from such beings; thus, this intuition is also called intuitus derivativus, “deduced” [abgeleitete], that is intuition which conduces [sich herleitende Anschauung]…. Not every intuition as such, but rather only the finite, is intuition that “takes things in stride” [hinnehmend]. (GA 3: 25/18)

Taft only adopts a standard translation of the leiten-cluster once (“derived”), failing to show that they (all) relate to familiar Kantian terms. Further, while “deduces” and “conduces” do some justice to Heidegger’s wordplay on leiten, that wordplay is unmoored from its source. Indeed, the term “conduces” sounds like a Heideggerian neologism; thus, hinnehmend (Taft’s “takes things in stride”) feels like one new term among many. One fails to appreciate that this is the only time in the paragraph where Heidegger goes off-book.

By contrast, Churchill translates these sentences as follows (with my inserted German):

That which is intuited proceeds [hergeleitet]21 from such an essent and for that reason is also termed intuitus derivatus, “derivative” [abgeleitete]…. But not every intuition as such is receptive [hinnehmend] – only the finite is so. (GA 3: 25/30)

While Churchill’s translations of the leiten-cluster do not sound like neologisms, the relationship between these terms (“proceeds” and “derivative”) is obscured – both due to the English translations, and the fact that herleiten (the infinitive) is the only German term he brackets into the passage. (The final term, sich herleitende, is not present, perhaps because this clause was not in the document that Churchill translated.) But further, Churchill translates Heidegger’s new term with a familiar Kantian term, “receptive.” While Churchill’s practice makes sense in that the new term is supposed to elaborate what Kant means by receptivity, it washes away Heidegger’s specific rendering of this notion, which he later draws on to identify new and surprising instances of receptivity in Kant’s system.

I suggest rather the following translation, which preserves when Heidegger uses Kantian terms and when he introduces his own. I again include the original German in brackets for reference (though these brackets would be unnecessary in the final product, since the translated terms capture the relationships between bracketed terms):

What is intuited is derived [hergeleitet] from such beings; therefore, this finite intuition is also called intuitus derivativus, “derivative” [abgeleitete]22 – that is to say, deriving intuition [sich herleitende Anschauung]…. Not every intuition as such, rather only finite [intuition] is a taking-up [hinnehmend]. (GA 3: 25)

This translation brings out Heidegger’s use of a quoted term from Kant (“derivative”), but also how his surrounding discussion plays on that term (“derived” and “deriving”). In particular, the surrounding discussion subtly attributes movement and activity to intuition – it derives from, it is deriving. Using iterations of the verb “derive” to translate this surrounding discussion shows its close contact with Kant’s wording, but also shows that Heidegger plays with familiar Kantian terms to gesture at the movement of intuition. By adopting the Cambridge translation of Kant’s terms, my translation preserves Kant’s direct wording and Heidegger’s plays on Kant’s wording – as well as offsetting Heidegger’s novel vocabulary, hinnehmend (“taking-up”), a new term that freshly interprets Kantian receptivity. While a new term, it is consonant with the verbs that Heidegger plays up in Kant’s text, which likewise highlight that intuition is doing something – deriving from, taking-up.

The example of the leiten-cluster shows that a translator can capture Heidegger’s wordplay while also preserving the source of that wordplay in Kant’s own terminology (as it has been translated into English). However, there are some cases where preserving Kant’s (translated) terminology would mean losing Heidegger’s wordplay. I suggest that a translator should accept this cost, as preserving Kantian terminology tracks the intervention that Heidegger attempts to make into Kant’s thought; and, conversely, capturing the wordplay unmoored from its sources accomplishes very little.

For example, when Heidegger suggests that the categories require some degree of receptivity (in Passage 2), he uses a surprising term. Verbindlichkeit, usually translated as “obligation,” is not a central term in Kant’s theoretical philosophy. While Kant occasionally uses the term in the Critique of Pure Reason, it is much more prominent in his practical philosophy. Therefore, the term invokes Kant’s practical philosophy. Heidegger’s use of this term suggests a broad (and, again, surprising) link between the theoretical rules (i.e. categories) that we employ in our cognition of the world around us, and the practical rules that guide our moral conduct: if these rules are in play, it is because of something that we do. We recognize them as binding; we take them to be necessary; we accept them as laws. Heidegger’s use of the term “obligation” suggests a closer connection between Kant’s theoretical and practical rules than is typically recognized.

However, extant interpretations miss this reference and instead translate the term to highlight the etymological relationship between Verbindlichkeit (“obligation”) and a nearby term, Regeln des Verbindens (“rules of combining,” when translating with Cambridge). For example, Taft renders the whole passage thus (with my German insertions): “the rules of binding-together [Regeln des Verbindens] (synthesis) are represented precisely as binding [bindende] in their character as bindingtogether [Verbindlichkeit]” (GA 3: 154/108). While Taft’s terms show how Heidegger plays on binden (“to bind”), he misses what Heidegger is doing with that wordplay: using Kant’s own terms to transform our understanding of Kant. Capturing Heidegger’s wordplay unmoored from the Kantian terminology at its basis does not transform our understanding of Kant in the way that Heidegger attempted with that wordplay – that is, by bringing out a surprising link between Kant’s theoretical and practical rules, his theoretical Regeln des Verbindens and the rules comprising our practical Verbindlichkeit.

There is little benefit to preserving Heidegger’s wordplay unmoored from its source; from the Taft passage, the reader gathers that Heidegger is preoccupied with “binding” but misses the intervention he attempts by using that term. However, preserving Kant’s terms, as they have been translated into English, would capture that intervention. Further, while “obligation” has no obvious etymological relationship with “rules of combining” (unlike Verbindlichkeit and Regeln des Verbindens), a footnote could clarify this relationship. After all, adopting a standard translation of Kant’s terms does not prevent the translator from offering footnotes that clarify Heidegger’s German wordplay.

In his interpretation of Kant, Heidegger adopts traditional terminology, precisely to shake up the reader’s understanding of those terms and develop new possibilities that Kant might have to offer us. For example, he draws his own interpretation of receptivity from out of Kant’s terms (such as the leiten-cluster). His new term, hinnehmend or taking-up, puts a name to that interpretation. Using the term extensively over the course of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, his fresh gloss on receptivity allows him to find receptivity where Kant himself would least expect it: perhaps most significantly, among the categorical “rules of combining.” Heidegger’s distinctive approach to language in his interpretive works calls for different principles of translation than those that have been used so far. In what follows, I will identify two of those principles.


When translating Heidegger’s interpretive works on Kant, I suggest the following as a first principle of translation: when Heidegger references Kantian turns of phrase, translate these terms to match the standard translation of Kant, currently that published by Cambridge University Press.23 This method of translation would show Heidegger’s appropriation of Kantian terms. Further, this method of translation puts Anglophone readers in a better place to evaluate the interpretation.

In Heidegger’s interpretive works on Kant, he uses Kant’s terms and addresses an audience who he could reasonably expect to hear the relationships between his turns of phrase and those found in the text being interpreted. As I have argued, a translation of these works that does not attend to Kantian terminology obscures the source of Heidegger’s wordplay. If we overlook the terms of the author he interprets, we miss a major source of his phrasing, and lose the connotations that he invokes by using these terms – connotations, indeed, that he is working to transform.

A translation that deviates from standard translations of Kantian terms also reinforces a common view about Heidegger’s interpretations of other thinkers: that he reads his own philosophical views into these thinkers, failing to engage with the content of their thought – that he uses his so-called “interpretations” as an excuse to articulate his own ideas. An Anglophone reader who picks up the English translations of Heidegger’s late-1920s interpretive works on Kant can become easily convinced that he has ventured far off-topic, since the translated terms (“ob-ject,” “conduces,” “binding-together”) seem foreign to Kant’s inquiry. This impression is not born out, however, when one crosschecks the original German. So long as we translate Heidegger without regard for how we translate Kant, we exclude him from conversations about interpreting Kant – conversations into which Heidegger intended to enter with these works, based on his audience (who were steeped in Kant’s text) and his arguments (which repeatedly reject, for example, Neo-Kantian readings).

Such translations do not leave Anglophone readers with an opportunity to evaluate whether Heidegger is actually engaging with Kant’s thought in his interpretation. Anglophone readers are left with a diminished ability to make the sort of judgments, then, that German readers can make; the issue is decided in advance that Heidegger strays from Kant’s text. However, given widespread familiarity with Kantian terms among Anglophone philosophers, this need not be the case. Translations can put readers in a better position to evaluate whether Heidegger reads himself into Kant, by preserving when he is actually using Kantian terminology.

By failing to follow my first principle, extant translations also occasionally make it look like Heidegger misuses Kant’s language. For example, Heidegger’s analysis of intuition (in Passage 1) uses the term Einzelheit. Following my first principle of translation would require translating this term as “singularity,” but both Churchill and Taft use “particularity” instead; on their translation of the passage, intuition presents something particular. However, the Cambridge translation (as well as the old standard, Kemp Smith) uses “particular” and “singular” to translate distinct, non-interchangeable technical terms in Kant. Specifically, the terms translate two quantificational categories from Kant’s table of judgments, where Besondere is translated as “particular” and Einzelne as “singular” (A70/B95). Kant uses the latter term to define intuition, saying it is a singular (and immediate) representation (A320/B377). This claim has received a good deal of scholarly attention (see, for example, Thompson 1972).24 On Churchill and Taft’s translations, then, Heidegger appears to make an obvious mistake, misapplying Kant’s terminology.25 However, following my first principle of translation would avoid this mistake, and show rather that he adheres largely to Kant’s own terms when describing intuition.


The first principle of translation has an additional benefit, which points directly toward my second principle of translation: the first principle illuminates where Heidegger introduces non-Kantian terminology into the discussion. Heidegger inserts two kinds of non-Kantian terms into his interpretation: in the first place, Heidegger introduces some terms that would be familiar to readers from Heidegger’s other works, such as the term vorhanden (present-at-hand). Second, Heidegger introduces new terms, like hinnehmend (taking-up) – terms that would be unfamiliar even in the context of Heidegger’s earlier works.

To track the distinction between these two sets of terms, I propose a second principle of translation: rely on a standard translation of Heidegger’s key terms from the contemporary period, such as Macquarrie and Robinson’s translation of Being and Time for those works from the 1920s.26 It makes sense to draw on this translation because it is the most well-known English translation of Heidegger’s most well-known work from the 1920s. Further, he published this work only a couple of years prior to the Kant book, so there is overlap between his terminology in both works.27

A translation that reflects when Heidegger is using Kantian terminology and when he is, in fact, using his own, also puts us in a better position to identify if and when his interpretative claims have broader implications for his own philosophical thought. Using his works interpreting other thinkers to shed light on his thought has often seemed like a venture, as William Blattner puts it, that “is fraught with risk.”28 When Heidegger “speaks in his own voice,”29 we see into his positive philosophical project – for example, when he explicitly references his own work, saying that “if we radicalize the Kantian problem…then we shall arrive at the philosophically fundamental problematic of Being and Time” (GA 25: 426/289). Outside of such moments, though, a commentator might reasonably feel reluctant to draw on Heidegger’s interpretive works to expound his thought, in order to avoid the easy mistake of thinking that Heidegger is offering his own view when he is in fact reconstructing the view of the author he is interpreting. However, being able to track when he draws on Kantian terminology and when he imports his own can help a reader make fuller use of his interpretive works for clarifying Heidegger’s positive philosophical project. Even if Heidegger does not draw a strong distinction between his thought and the thinker he interprets, those moments where he uses his own terminology shed new light on those terms.

For example, following my second principle of translation, vorhanden should be translated as “present-at-hand.” Churchill and Taft both occasionally translate vorhanden as “on hand” (for example in Passage 1), which is a common translation of the term. However, their respective treatments of the term are uneven; in Passage 2, for example, Churchill translates the term as “given” and Taft as “in hand.” However, consistently adopting a standard translation of the term would capture a running thread in Heidegger’s interpretation. In particular, he repeatedly suggests that Kant analyzes our experience of the present- at-hand – entities understood as discrete individual objects (e.g. the “hammer-Thing” with its isolated properties, GA 2: 69/SZ 69) – as opposed to the ready-to-hand – entities understood in terms of their context in a meaningful, lived world, such as the interconnected world of equipment (see GA 25: 20/14). In the passage where Churchill and Taft offer nonstandard translations of vorhanden, Heidegger in fact indicates why this point of focus is a problem for Kant.30 Heidegger says, on my translation, “the rules that are represented in the understanding, as the faculty of rules [Vermögen der Regeln], are not grasped as something present-at-hand [Vorhandenes] ‘in consciousness’ [im Bewußtsein]” (GA 3: 154). The passage suggests that when we are talking about the basic concepts that the human possesses in advance of experience – the prior understanding that we draw on to make sense of the world around us – it just won’t do to think of those concepts as isolated Things that in some way populate our mental space. If the categories are employed, it is not because they just sit in our consciousness; an account of a different sort is required to explain how these fundamental concepts figure into our experience. Heidegger’s nearby use of another term from Being and TimeEntwerfen, or “projection” – suggests further that, in his view, the ontology of Dasein is more apt for explaining our employment of categories (rules, recall, to which we must bind ourselves).

Tracing Heidegger’s employment of his own terminology points, then, to a precise place where he thinks his philosophy can supplement that of Kant. However, a translation that fails to evenly reflect Heidegger’s own terms will miss crucial points of contact between his thought and the author he interprets.


I have argued that translations of Heidegger’s 1920s Kant interpretations ought to match the translated terms offered in the standard (Cambridge) translation of Kant on the one hand, and in the standard (Macquarrie and Robinson) translation of Heidegger on the other. One objection to these two principles is that following them would preserve the terminological shortcomings of the standard translations. For example, even scholars of Kant disagree with some of the translation choices made in the Cambridge edition. A classic example is the term “intuition,” which the Cambridge edition follows longstanding precedent in using as the translation of Anschauung.31 As Paul Carus notes, “intuition” has a mystical connotation in its ordinary English usage (i.e. sensing something, but not in a perceptual way). Anschauung lacks this connotation both in its ordinary German usage and in Kant’s usage of the term.32 In Kant’s usage, intuitions are inherently this-worldly, offering sense data from the world around us. If the Cambridge edition offers an imperfect translation of Kant’s terms, why should we repeat these issues when translating Heidegger? Why not offer a better translation of Kant, where we can?

Consider this question in regard to two types of readers of Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant: readers who are already familiar with Kantian terminology, and readers who experience it for the first time through Heidegger’s interpretation. Arguably, a reader who is familiar with Kant’s terminology would not retain the ordinary English connotations for “intuition” if she came across the term in Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant. An unhelpful connotation at the first read of Kant’s text would have resolved itself by the time the reader made her way to Heidegger’s interpretation.

However, one might worry that using a typical translation of Kantian terms could reinforce a typical understanding of Kant – precisely the sort of understanding that Heidegger wants to undermine with his destructive interpretive method. If Heidegger wants to transform our understanding of Kant, why not start anew with fresh vocabulary?

In a way, current Anglophone readers of Kant find ourselves in a similar situation to German readers of Kant during the early twentieth century. More than a century after the publication of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant’s terms had accumulated a lot of baggage, some of which in Heidegger’s mind reflected a misunderstanding of Kant. Heidegger’s move, however, was not to abandon familiar terms like das Beharrliche but to correct our understanding of them. I argue that we should follow his lead when we translate his interpretive works. We must maintain a point of contact with Kant’s well-trodden text, to transform our understanding of Kant from the inside out.33

What about a reader of Heidegger’s interpretation who is unfamiliar with Kantian terms? Won’t misleading translations (e.g. “intuition”) lead those readers astray, by way of the everyday connotations that are still live for an ordinary English speaker? Perhaps a more perfect translation of Kant’s key terms would leave the newcomer to Kant with a better understanding of Kant’s philosophy, insulating the reader from misleading connotations. However, such a translation would leave the newcomer with little understanding of what Heidegger is doing with Kant’s philosophy. His interpretation of Kant is not a straightforward retelling of Kant’s central claims – an attempt, say, to leave the reader with a clear-eyed view of the central tenets of transcendental idealism. The interpretation is an intervention that attempts to show the reader precisely where previous interpreters have gotten Kant wrong – and, sometimes, where Kant got himself wrong. Heidegger’s interpretation refers to Kant’s passages, arguments, and terms (sometimes working through them in excruciating detail). To appreciate what Heidegger is doing, seasoned Kantians and novices alike must be able to compare his discussions with the Kantian passages to which they refer. This work is a commentary on Kant, and an intervention in Kant scholarship; newly translating Kant’s terms prevents the reader from tracking and evaluating these components of the interpretation.

A final issue concerns adopting a standard translation of Heidegger. One might worry, similarly, that standard translations of Heidegger do not adequately capture some of his terms, such as Macquarrie and Robinson’s rendering of Befindlichkeit as “state-of-mind.” Why adopt a faulty translation over an improved one? As I suggested above, a major benefit of doing so is that familiar translations (even faulty ones) help to show the reader when Heidegger introduces new terms over the course of his interpretation, as opposed to bringing in concepts that he has developed elsewhere. Further, as with using standard Kant interpretations, this method of translation helps the reader easily draw comparisons across works. A standard translation of Heidegger’s terms points the reader to where he has developed the concept elsewhere. This easy comparison has benefits in two directions: the positive philosophical treatise can enrich our understanding of the interpretive work, and the interpretive work can enrich our understanding of the positive philosophical treatise.


To conclude, I would like to outline a final benefit of my proposed method of translation. In particular, translating Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant with an eye toward the standard translation of Kant would make Heidegger’s interpretation accessible to a broader range of scholars, allowing them to appreciate Heidegger’s intervention into Kant’s thought. Within our broader philosophical community, many scholars share the concerns that animate our engagements with Heidegger – whether those concerns are how to interpret the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, how to characterize a work of art, or how to understand the role of philosophy vis-à-vis the sciences. Opening avenues of dialogue with our broader philosophical community will help us not only to bring out the larger impact of the ideas that we excavate from Heidegger’s texts, but also to improve the rigor of our arguments and the depth of our understanding. Adjusting our practices of translation is but one method for opening such a dialogue.


To demonstrate my proposed method of translation, I translate two excerpts from Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. I first provide the full passages in German. Then, I provide my translation, and the translation of those passages from Churchill and Taft. When translated terms are linked to Kantian or Heideggerian terminology, I include the German in brackets in all three translations. The specialized terms from Kant (the vast majority of matched terms) are unmarked, whereas the specialized terms from Heidegger are marked with an asterisk. I translate the first set of terms in line with the Cambridge translation of the Critique of Pure Reason; when a term is not included in the glossary, I rely on translations from the text itself. I translate the second set of terms in line with Macquarrie and Robinson’s translation of Being and Time. I use two asterisks to mark Heidegger’s new term in these passages: hinnehmend.

My discussion after the translated passages compares and contrasts the three translations, and argues that my own translation improves our understanding of these passages.


The subject of the first translated passage is cognition (i.e. experiencing something determinate). Heidegger elucidates Kant’s distinction between finite and infinite cognition, the former being the sort of cognition that humans have, and the latter being the sort of cognition that God would have (a cognition that has the capacity to create what it cognizes). As I outlined above, Kant suggests that finite, human cognition relies on two things: intuitions, a representation of some concrete particular, and concepts, a representation that gathers many under one. Here is how Heidegger characterizes Kant’s distinction between finite and infinite cognition:

Zunächst können wir negativ sagen: die endliche Erkenntnis ist nicht-schöpferische Anschauung. Was sie unmittelbar in seiner Einzelheit darzustellen hat, muß vordem schon vorhanden sein. Endliche Anschauung sieht sich auf das Anschaubare als ein von sich her schon Seiendes angewiesen. Das Angeschaute ist von solchem Seienden hergeleitet, deshalb heißt diese Anschauung auch intuitus derivativus, „abgeleitete“, d.h. sich herleitende Anschauung. Endliche Anschauung des Seienden vermag sich nicht von sich aus den Gegenstand zu geben. Sie muß ihn sich geben lassen. Nicht jede Anschauung als solche, sondern nur die endliche ist hinnehmend. Der Charakter der Endlichkeit der Anschauung liegt demnach in der Rezeptivität. Endliche Anschauung kann aber nicht hinnehmen, ohne das Hinzunehmende sich meldet. Endliche Anschauung muß ihrem Wesen nach von dem in ihr Anschaubaren angegangen, affiziert werden. (GA 3: 25–26)

Proposed Translation

To start, we can say negatively: finite cognition [die endliche Erkenntnis] is non-creative intuition [nichtschöpferische Anschauung]. What it has to exhibit immediately in its singularity [Was sie unmittelbar in seiner Einzelheit darzustellen hat] must already be present-at-hand [vorhanden*] beforehand. Finite intuition sees itself submitted [angewiesen*] to what is intuitable as a being that is already there. What is intuited is derived [hergeleitet] from such beings; therefore, this finite intuition is also called intuitus derivativus, “derivative” [abgeleitete] – that is to say, deriving intuition [sich herleitende Anschauung]. Finite intuition of a being cannot give itself an object [Gegenstand]34 from itself. It must let the object be given to it. Not every intuition as such, rather only finite [intuition] is a taking-up [hinnehmend**]. Therefore, the finite character of intuition lies in its receptivity [Rezeptivität]. But finite intuition cannot take up unless what is being taken up announces itself [sich meldet*]. Finite intuition must according to its essence be approached, affected, by what is intuitable in it.35

Churchill (1962), 29–30

To begin with, we can say negatively that finite knowledge [die endliche Erkenntnis] is non-creative intuition [nicht-schöpferische Anschauung]. What is presented immediately and in its particularity [Was sie unmittelbar in seiner Einzelheit darzustellen hat] must be already on hand [vorhanden*]. Finite intuition looks to the intuitable as something on which it is dependent [angewiesen*] and which exists in its own right. That which is intuited proceeds [hergeleitet] from such an essent and for that reason is also termed intuitus derivatus, “derivative” [abgeleitete]. Finite intuition of the essent is not able by itself to give itself an object [Gegenstand]. It must let this object be given. But not every intuition as such is receptive [hinnehmend**] – only the finite is so. Hence, the finitude of intuition lies in its receptivity [Rezeptivität]. Finite intuition cannot receive anything, however, unless the latter announces itself [sich meldet*], that is, the essence of finite intuition is such that it must be solicited [angegangen] or affected by a possible object.

Taft (1990), 18

In the first place, we can say negatively: finite knowledge [die endliche Erkenntnis] is noncreative intuition [nicht–schöpferische Anschauung]. What has to be presented immediately in its particularity [Was sie unmittelbar in seiner Einzelheit darzustellen hat] must already be “on hand” [vorhanden*] in advance. Finite intuition sees that it is dependent [angewiesen*] upon the intuitable as a being which exists in its own right. The intuited is derived [hergeleitet] from such beings; thus, this intuition is also called intuitus derivativus, “deduced” [abgeleitete], that is, intuition which conduces [sich herleitende Anschauung]. Finite intuition of the being cannot give the object [Gegenstand] from out of itself. It must allow the object to be given. Not every intuition as such, but rather only the finite, is intuition that “takes things in stride” [hinnehmend**]. Hence, the character of the finitude of intuition is found in its receptivity [Rezeptivität]. Finite intuition, however, cannot take something in stride unless that which is to be taken in stride announces itself [sich meldet*]. According to its essence, finite intuition must be solicited or affected by that which is intuitable in it.

These three translations contain many similarities. Many of the major Kantian terms are translated identically: intuition, finite, receptivity. Moreover, some differences in my translation can be attributed to the fact that I rely on the Cambridge translation as opposed to the old standard, Kemp Smith. Thus, I have “cognition” rather than “knowledge” for Erkenntnis. At least one difference with Churchill (that I share with Taft) can be attributed to my reliance on Macquarrie and Robinson’s standardized translation: along with Taft, I use “being” for Seiendes instead of “essent.” Further, I differ from both Churchill and Taft in that I use “present-at-hand” (with Macquarrie and Robinson) as opposed to “on hand” (another common translation of vorhanden). I suggest that the remaining differences, subtle as they may seem, improve on Churchill and Taft’s respective renditions of this passage. By following my two principles of translation, I mark where Heidegger uses Kantian terms and which terms he uses, as well as offset Heidegger’s own terminology.

Notice, for example, that all of the translations show that Heidegger plays on Kant’s term “intuition” (Anschauung): in my translation, I rendered these as “what is intuitable” (Anschaubare) and “what is intuited” (Angeschaute). However, unlike Churchill and Taft, my translation takes a similar tack on the cluster of terms related to Kant’s ableiten and herleiten – verbs that Cambridge mutually translates “to derive.” My translation, where hergeleitet is “derived,” sich herleitende “deriving,” and abgeleitet “derivative,” shows that Heidegger is sticking to familiar Kantian terms. By contrast, the Churchill and Taft translations bring in terms that are not recognizably Kantian (Churchill’s “proceeds” and Taft’s “conduces”) or not a recognizable part of Kant’s discussion of intuition (Taft’s “deduced”). A reader of the latter two translations might be tempted to think that Heidegger is offering up new terms with which to consider intuition. However, my translation shows that he is not doing that – at least, not yet.

By selecting the less common Cambridge translation of abgeleitet, “derivative,” I continue to mark some distance between herleiten and ableiten. A cost of my translation is that it does not reflect that Heidegger’s quoted term, “abgeleitet,” is identical with Kant’s passage on B72. While I translate the term as “derivative,” the Cambridge translation says that sensibility “is derived (intuitus derivativus).” (However, Kemp Smith does use the term “derivative” in his translation of the same passage.) I accept this cost because Heidegger’s larger sentence notices a difference between these two terms; for example, Heidegger’s phrase “that is” (d.h.) suggests that the commentary using the verb herleiten is supposed to expand on the quoted verb, “abgeleitet.” In particular, herleiten is presented as active in Heidegger’s commentary. Thus, I use the active verb (“to derive”) as opposed to the settled adjective (“derivative”) to translate herleiten. Further, the stem of herleiten, her, is the first of a pair of directional terms that pepper this passage: “hin und her” is a colloquial expression typically translated as “back and forth” or “to and fro.” My translation, where intuition “derives from such beings” (as opposed to the standalone “derivative”) preserves some of that directionality.

Further, taking this tack on the fourth sentence helps the reader appreciate when Heidegger actually introduces novel vocabulary in the seventh sentence (the hin to the fourth sentence’s her, i.e., the “to” to its “fro”); this is the one place in the paragraph where Heidegger introduces a new term. This is an advantage of my translation, as Heidegger continues to draw on this new term when making controversial claims (see Passage 2).

I translate hinnehmend as “taking-up.” I prefer this translation to Churchill’s “submitting” (which he sometimes uses, when he does not translate the term as “receptive”). Nehmen is typically translated as “taking” in the Cambridge translation, both when Kant uses the verb and its derivatives (e.g. annehmen at A35). Therefore, “taking-up” keeps contact with Kant’s usage of nehmen, as it has been translated into the English. Further, this translation more closely approximates Heidegger’s meaning than Taft’s “taking things in stride” (a phrase that suggests a laid-back attitude, rather than a reception of content). My translation, taking-up, also preserves some directionality in the term hin. My translation also preserves Heidegger’s suggestion that intuition is dependent upon something else; when we take something up, what we take up is given from without.

While Heidegger’s new term might sound odd, the surrounding discussion brings out its close contact with Kantian claims and Kantian terminology. When Heidegger discusses a “taking-up,” he puts a name to the familiar Kantian claim that an intuition receives its content. Clearly showing Heidegger’s new term in the sea of Kantian terminology in which it was introduced shows that Heidegger’s expression, while his own, is not foreign to Kant’s inquiry. It spells out what Kant means when he claims that finite intuition is receptive. Finite intuition accepts content – it takes up.

In this passage, Heidegger makes use of the new term “taking-up” to elucidate Kant’s distinction between infinite and finite cognition. Because infinite cognition is completely intuitive and finite cognition comprises both intuition and thinking, it is common to appeal to the faculty of thinking (i.e. understanding) as what differentiates infinite and finite cognition. However, Heidegger appeals to intuition to draw the distinction; before any consideration of thinking, infinite and finite cognition are already different based on their intuition. While infinite intuition can “give an object from itself,” creating a being, finite intuition relies on being affected. Finite cognition, then, is intuitively distinct in that it “takes up.” While interpretations of Kant during Heidegger’s time (especially the Neo-Kantians) downplayed the role of intuition, Heidegger’s interpretation emphasizes the role of intuition within Kant’s system of thought. And, as we see in my translation, Heidegger makes this intervention, for the most part, using Kant’s own language, showing how his role for intuition – and Heidegger’s own characterization of that role, taking-up – falls out of Kant’s system of thought.


Heidegger reintroduces his new term in a much later discussion, which arguably provides the payoff of his careful inquiry into Kantian receptivity. He draws on his characterization of receptivity as a taking-up – an accepting of content – to widen the extension of that term, again by appealing to considerations (and terminology) that are internal to Kant’s inquiry.

Heidegger famously argues that we should not think of the purely spontaneous understanding as the fundamental cognitive faculty for Kant. Rather, the imagination is fundamental. Heidegger bases his argument on the idea that the imagination is both spontaneous and receptive, and on the fact that the loftiest tasks that Kant assigns to human spontaneity, upon further review, require some receptivity. Heidegger again adopts a great deal of Kantian terminology to make this point, but introduces his new concept – hinnehmend, or taking-up – as crucial support for his argument that spontaneous thinking is intuitive.

In this passage, Heidegger uses Kant’s term affinity. This term appears in the first edition of the Transcendental Deduction (i.e. the A-Deduction), where Kant attempts to prove that the categories of the understanding – i.e. the concepts that we possess a priori, independently of experience – actually apply to our experience, being in the right sort of contact with it. In the context of this discussion, Kant claims that it is an a priori truth of human cognition that all of our representations are associable or relatable to one another (all being a part of the same experience); that is, they have affinity. Further, they are relatable in determinate ways, according to the categories (e.g. relatable as causes and effects). Heidegger also uses Kant’s term transcendental apperception. A major theme of the A-Deduction, transcendental apperception is supposed to be a component of human spontaneity. It refers to the idea that a human cognizer has a stable and unified sense of self, in that all of one’s representations belong to one consciousness. Putting these two terms together, Kant offers an account where a stable subject (transcendental apperception) faces a stably organizable world (one with affinity).

With these technical concepts from Kant, Heidegger aims to show the receptivity at the heart of Kant’s account of spontaneity:

Um den wesenhaften Anschauungscharakter des reinen Denkens zu sehen, muß nur das echte Wesen des endlichen Anschauens als eines Hinnehmens von Sichgebendem begriffen und festgehalten werden. Nun ergab sich aber als Grundcharakter der „Einheit“ der transzendentale Apperzeption, daß sie, im vorhinein ständig einigend, wider alles Geratewohl ist. Im vorstellenden Sich-zuwenden-zu...wird daher dieses Dawider und nichts anderes entgegengenommen. Das frei bildende Entwerfen der Affinität ist in sich ein vorstellend hinnehmendes Sich-unterwerfen unter sie. Die Regeln, die im Verstand als dem Vermögen der Regeln vorgestellt werden, sind nicht als etwas „im Bewußtsein“ Vorhandenes erfaßt, sondern die Regeln des Verbindens (Synthesis) werden gerade als bindende in ihrer Verbindlichkeit vorgestellt. Wenn dergleichen wie eine regelnde Regel nur da ist im hinnehmenden Sich-regeln-lassen, dann kann die „Idee“ als Vorstellung der Regeln nur vorstellen in der Weise eines Hinnehmens. (GA 3: 154).

Proposed Translation

In order to see the essentially intuitive character of pure thinking [des reinen Denkens], one must only grasp and hold onto the genuine essence of finite intuiting – as a taking-up of what gives itself. Now, the fundamental character of the “unity” [Einheit] of transcendental apperception [transzendentale Apperzeption] has been shown: constantly unifying in advance, it is opposed to everything haphazard [Geratewohl]. In the representing [vorstellenden] turning-toward…, therefore, this opposition is accepted and nothing else. The free formative projection of affinity [frei bildende Entwerfen* der Affinität] is in itself a representing, taking-up [hinnehmendes**], subjecting-itself to [Sich-unterwerfen] [affinity]. The rules that are represented in the understanding, as the faculty of rules [Vermögen der Regeln], are not grasped as something present-at-hand [Vorhandenes*] “in consciousness” [im Bewußtsein], but rather the rules of combining (synthesis) [Regeln des Verbindens (Synthesis)] are represented as binding in their obligation [Verbindlichkeit].36 If such a thing as a ruling rule is there only in a taking-up [hinnehmenden] letting-itself-be-ruled, then the “idea” [Idee] as representation of rules can represent only in the way of a taking-up [Hinnehmens**].

Churchill (1962), pp. 159–60

In order to comprehend the essentially intuitive character of pure thought [des reinen Denkens], it is necessary only to understand and retain the true essence of finite intuition as a reception of that which offers itself. Now, it has been established that the fundamental character of the “unity” [Einheit] of transcendental apperception [transzendentale Apperzeption] is that, as constantly unifying in advance, it is opposed to all that is haphazard [Geratewohl]. This is why in the representative [vorstellenden] act of orientation only this opposition is received and nothing more. The free formative projection which develops affinity [frei bildende Entwerfen* der Affinität] while submitting to [Sich-unterwerfen] it is in itself a receptive [hinnehmendes**] act of representation. The rules which are represented in the understanding, taken as the faculty of rules [Vermögen der Regeln], are not apprehended as actually given [Vorhandenes*] “in consciousness” [im Bewußtsein] but as rules of connection (synthesis) [Regeln des Verbindens (Synthesis)] which compel as they connect [Verbindlichkeit]. If a rule exercises its function only in the receptive act [hinnehmenden] which lets it rule, then the “idea” [Idee] as the representation of rules can itself represent only in the mode of receptivity [Hinnehmens**].

Taft (1990), p. 108

In order to see the essential intuitive character of pure thinking [des reinen Denkens], only the genuine essence of finite intuiting as a taking-in-stride of what gives itself must be grasped and adhered to. But now it has come out as the fundamental character of the “unity” [Einheit] of transcendental apperception [transzendentale Apperzeption] that, constantly unifying in advance, it is opposed to everything random [Geratewohl]. Hence, in the representing [vorstellenden] self-turning-toward…, only this Being-in-opposition and no other is taken up. The free, formative projecting of the affinity [frei bildende Entwerfen* der Affinität] is in itself a representing submitting to [Sich-unterwerfen] it which takes things in stride [hinnehmendes**]. The rules, which are represented in the understanding as the faculty of rules [Vermögen der Regeln], are not grasped as something in hand [Vorhandenes*] “in consciousness” [im Bewußtsein]. Rather, the rules of binding-together (synthesis) [Regeln des Verbindens (Synthesis)] are represented precisely as binding in their character as binding-together [Verbindlichkeit]. If something, such as a ruling rule, is only there in the letting-be-ruled which takes things in stride, then the “Idea” [Idee] as representation of the rule can only be represented in the manner of something which takes things in stride [Hinnehmens**].

As with Passage 1, all three translations preserve much of Kant’s technical vocabulary: transcendental apperception, affinity, idea. Further, one difference in translation carries over from the first passage I translated. Churchill continues to translate hinnehmend as “receptive,” which loses the new term that Heidegger is using to make his argument. Heidegger’s term should remain in the passage, I argue, as it is receptivity in this particular sense that Heidegger thinks we can see in Kant’s A-Deduction account of spontaneity. Taft continues to translate this term as “taking-in-stride,” where I prefer “taking-up.”

By following my two principles, my translation captures vocabulary, both Kantian and Heideggerian, that are lost in the other two. As I outlined above, my translation shows Heidegger’s surprising reference to a Kantian moral notion, Verbindlichkeit (“obligation”). Further, my translation maintains his running thread that Kant focuses too much on what is (in Heidegger’s terms) vorhanden (“present-at-hand”), thereby missing the particular ontology of Dasein.

Heidegger’s thesis in this passage, that pure understanding is essentially intuitive, would be surprising to Kant scholars of his time – namely, the Neo-Kantians – who took thinking to be purely spontaneous. While Heidegger makes a controversial claim, this translation shows that he draws on thoroughgoing Kantian vocabulary in order to make it. Understanding is, on Kant’s view, a faculty of rules; and Heidegger argues that having a rule requires accepting, receiving, or taking-up some content as binding. This language helps to show that Heidegger is not going on a tangent, veering off into his own philosophical commitments. He offers the intuitive character of pure thinking as a development of Kant’s thought, following from Kant’s discussion from the A-Deduction.

While working with Kant’s technical vocabulary, Heidegger does lead us here to a crucial place where his own philosophy has something to offer Kant’s account. If Heidegger’s interpretation is right, each component of Kant’s transcendental apparatus – from the intuitions of space and time to the categories of the understanding (the latter being the particular focus of this passage) – require both receptivity and spontaneity working together. They require, that is, a unity of receptivity and spontaneity. Heidegger thinks that the obvious Kantian site for that unity is the imagination, but that Kant fails to fully develop that unity. By contrast, Heidegger’s account of Dasein (purportedly) shows how different existentialia are unified. While using Kant’s terminology, Heidegger gestures at a hole in Kant’s account that his own philosophy may be able to fill.



I thank Richard Polt, Lee Braver, Christopher Yeomans, and Lauren Leydon-Hardy for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. All mistakes are my own.


Consider, for example, Fried and Polt’s translations of the political terms that Heidegger uses (Martin Heidegger, Being and Truth, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt. [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010], xvii–xviii).


To be clear, I object to the principle of translation that Stambaugh articulates here, and not necessarily her results. Indeed, Stambaugh suggests that her practice resulted in only “minor discrepancies” between her translated terminology and that found in the Schelling treatise (Martin Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Joan Stambaugh [Athens, oh: Ohio University Press, 1985], vii). Because she does not mark these discrepancies in her translation, it is difficult to judge whether they are minor, and I argue in what follows that what may seem like minor discrepancies to translators of Heidegger’s Kant book in fact detract significantly from Heidegger’s meaning (for example, by losing the source of his phrasing, or by making it appear that he mistakes Kant’s terms). Nevertheless, it could be that following Stambaugh’s principle of translation results in only minor discrepancies in some cases; however, this result is only a happy accident of a method that translates with an eye toward Heidegger’s terminology rather than the thinker he interprets. I argue that a translator should not merely stumble upon this result, but explicitly aim for it. To do justice to Heidegger’s interpretive method, the language of the author he interprets should be preserved purposefully and systematically.


Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1962), 13. I rely on Macquarrie and Robinson’s translation whenever quoting from GA 2.


James D. Reid and Benjamin J. Crowe’s recent translation of Heidegger’s 1935–36 interpretation of Kant, The Question Concerning the Thing, is sensitive to English translations of Kant’s terminology (Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning the Thing, trans. James D. Reid and Benjamin J. Crowe [London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018]). That is, the translators “employ translations from Kant as they appear in the Cambridge edition of Kant’s chief works, except when Heidegger’s own distinctive reading of Kant forces a departure from standard practice or in cases where Heidegger quotes from material not included in the Cambridge series” (x). Since Reid and Crowe commit to following the Cambridge translation, they (largely) conform to one of the key interpretive principles I defend in this paper. While my argument could be read as retrospective justification for their approach to translation, I explain why I bracket consideration of the 1935–36 interpretation in endnote 27 below.


I thank Richard Polt for pointing out this potential justification for these translation practices.


These works correspond, respectively, to GA 3 and GA 25.


James S. Churchill, “Translator’s Introduction,” in Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans. James Churchill (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962), xv, fn.1.


Churchill, xvi, fn.3.


Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993).


Richard Taft, in “Translator’s Introduction to the Fourth Edition,” Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans. Richard Taft (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), xii.


Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans. Churchill, 1, fn.1.


Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).


This term is also commonly translated as “groundwork,” for example in Kant’s moral philosophy – such as The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Immanuel Kant, Practical Philosophy, trans. Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).


Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly, “Translator’s Preface,” Martin Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997, xviii. I rely on Emad and Maly’s translation whenever quoting from GA 25.


Emad and Maly, xix. Taft also notes this distinction, rendering Gegenstand and Objekt respectively as “object” and “Object” and crediting Charles Sherover for recognizing the importance of this distinction (Heidegger (Taft), Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, xiii; see Charles Sherover, “Two Kinds of Transcendental Objectivity: Their Differentiation,” Philosophical Topics, 12, no. 2 (1981): 251–278).


Emad and Maly, xx.


Emad and Maly, xix–xx.


The Marburg Neo-Kantians attempted to reduce the role that Kant attributes to intuition; for example, Cohen and Natorp argue that the intuitions of space and time are in fact generated by the understanding. Hermann Cohen, System der Philosophie 1: Logik der reinen Erkenntniss (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1902), 11–12, and Paul Natorp, Die Logischen Grundlagen der exakten Wissenschaften (Leipzig and Berlin: B.G. Teubner, 1923), 277.


How are these concepts spontaneously generated? This is a deep and difficult question, and one that I will have to treat elsewhere. It may be that generating these concepts requires additional receptivity (e.g. where something is received from without). However, I hope my discussion in the main text helps to show that receptivity is necessary in at least one sense – in accepting these rules as a constraint.


Churchill includes a bracketed German term here, too (the infinitive, herleiten). The other member of his truncated leiten-cluster (abgeleitet) goes unmarked.


The term abgeleitet is translated both as “derived” (A320/B277) and “derivative” (A81/B107).


While Norman Kemp Smith’s translation (first published in 1929) was at one time standard, the Cambridge translation by Paul Guyer and Allen Wood has arguably replaced it. This is evident from the practices of leading Kant journals, where Kant Yearbook, for example, requires authors to cite the Cambridge edition when citing an English translation of Kant’s work. In what follows, I will refer to Guyer and Wood’s translation simply as the “Cambridge translation.”


Manley Thompson, “Singular Terms and Intuitions in Kant’s Epistemology,” Review of Metaphysics 26, no.2 (1972): 314–343.


Briefly, the singularity of intuition is opposed to the generality of concepts; while concepts apply to many objects, an intuition applies to one (e.g. the concept “cat” ranges over many individuals, but this intuition is an intuition of this cat and not that one). The term “particularity” does not capture the same idea. On Kant’s view, judgments can be quantified as follows (a70/b95): universal (applying to all, as in “all men are mortal”), particular (applying to some, as in “some trees are maples”), and singular (applying to one, as in “Caius is mortal”). “Particularity” does not secure a relationship to an individual, one.


While Joan Stambaugh’s translation of Being and Time is also influential (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh [Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010]), Macquarrie and Robinson’s is more widely cited in contemporary Anglophone work on Heidegger. For example, The Cambridge Heidegger Lexicon uses the latter translation as its standard English translation of Being and Time (Mark Wrathall, The Cambridge Heidegger Lexicon [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021]).


While the translators of Heidegger’s 1935–36 work The Question Concerning the Thing commit themselves to following the Cambridge translation of Kant, they do not commit to following Macquarrie and Robinson’s translation of Sein und Zeit’s terminology. Accordingly, Reid and Crowe translate Vorhanden as “the present, extant, presence” (181). It seems reasonable, though, for these translators to depart from my second principle, as the work they translate is from a different era of Heidegger’s thought, almost ten years after the publication of Sein und Zeit. In this case, then, it would be helpful to rely on standard Heidegger translations of works in the same period with overlapping terminology; due to their topical similarities, for example, it might be best to allow for easy comparison between the 1935–36 interpretation of Kant and the 1935 lecture series, Introduction to Metaphysics. A final complication with applying my principles to the 1935–36 work concerns the method of interpretation that I have outlined in this section, and used to justify my translation proposal; while I am inclined to think that Heidegger continues to follow this method in his 1935–36 work, I do not have the space to argue that here.


William Blattner, Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), xvi.


Blattner, xvi.


See also GA 2: 424n10/SZ 320n1.


To be clear, all the translators of Heidegger’s works on Kant follow this precedent, as well; so, I offer “intuition” only as an easy example of a controversial Kant translation, rather than a live issue for translating Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant.


Paul Carus, “What does Anschauung mean?” The Monist 2, no.4 (1892): 539.


Because contemporary scholars do differ from the Neo-Kantians in their understanding of Kant, this translation is not and cannot be perfect – it cannot do the exact same work on contemporary scholars as it was meant to do on Heidegger’s own contemporaries. Nevertheless, I concur with Richard Polt’s suggestion that an imperfect translation is valuable nonetheless (“The Untranslatable Word? Reflections on Ereignis,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41, no. 3–4 (2014): 407–425). Here, showing Heidegger’s careful development of his interpretation from Kant’s own terms can likewise bring a contemporary reader into a new understanding of Kant.


As with the Cambridge convention, following my principles means translating Gegenstand as “object,” and Objekt as “object” with a footnote to the German term.


I thank Richard Polt especially for comments that helped me to improve this translation, and my translation of the next passage.


Because the surrounding discussion (des Verbindens and bindende) plays on the stem of this word (binden, to bind), a footnote would be appropriate here, drawing out the wordplay that is not apparent from the translated terms.