Kant Lexicon

Judgment: Urtheil (German), iudicium (Latin)

In Meier’s logic text, used in Kant’s logic lectures, judgment is defined as the presentation of a logical relation of agreement or opposition between concepts (§ 292). Kant describes this traditional account of judgment as being “the presentation of a relation between two concepts” (B140). One of Kant’s own examples is All bodies are divisible (A68/B93), which relates the concept body with the concept divisbility. Meier’s logic then classified this relation in a variety of ways, many of which were systematized by Kant in the Table of Judgments, described below.

On Kant’s view, judgment is a power of the understanding. The activity of the understanding is thinking, and thinking presents objects through concepts. But it can do so only through the act of judgment: “the only use that the understanding can make of these concepts is to judge by means of them” (A68/B93). Kant adds, “Now since all acts of the understanding can be reduced to judgments, the understanding as such can be presented as a power of judgment” (A69/B94).

A judgment presents objects only indirectly, through the concepts that it contains. Thus bodies are presented through the concept body, and in the judgment All bodies are divisible, the concept body is thought through the concept divisibility. The effect of the act of judgment is to unify our presentations, by drawing many presentations under a single concept. Bodies have in common their divisibility. Because judgments are presentations which give unity to presentations, they are higher-order presentations. “For instead of cognizing the object by means of a direct presentation, we do so by means of a higher presentation comprising both this direct presentation and several other presentations” (A69/B94).

In the second edition of the Critique, B140-142, Kant objected to the traditional account of judgment on several counts. First, it does not explain the nature of hypothetical and disjunctive judgments. Second, it does not account for the intended objectivity of judgments, which is expressed through the use of the copula ‘is.’ Finally, it omits reference to the basis of the unity found in the judgment: the unity of apperception or self-consciousness. For the understanding to complete the act of judgment, it must refer the components of the judgment to a single consciousness of itself. Ultimately, the unity of apperception is the source of the unity brought about through the judgment.

Every judgment has a form and a matter or content. The content of a judgment is the specific concepts or intuitions that are united in the act of judging. The form of a judgment is independent of its content. Kant isolated twelve forms of judgment, which he arranged in a systematic fashion in the “Table of Judgments” (A70/B95, cf. Prolegomena §21, Ak 4:302-303).


Universal: All A is B

Particular: Some A is B

Singular: a is B


Affirmative: A is B

Negative: A is not B

Infinite: A is a non-B


Categorical: A is B

(Example: Bodies are divisible.)

Hypothetical: If A is B then C is D (similarly for 'is not' and 'is a non-)

(Example: If there is a perfect justice, the obstinately wicked are punished.)

Disjunctive: a is A or B or C

(Example: The world exists either through blind chance, or through inner necessity, or through an external cause.)


Problematic: A may be B

Assertoric: A (really) is B

Apodeictic: A must be B

There are a number of other distinctions made by Kant between kinds of judgment.

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