PerspectiveNeuroscience

A Kantian View of Space

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Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1487-1488
DOI: 10.1126/science.1191527

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Summary

How does the brain represent space? Is this representation entirely the result of learning from experience? In his Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant argued that there must be certain “a priori conditions” of cognition, which could not be derived from experience but must instead be given prior to it. His theory includes two “a priori pure forms” of space and of time, regarded as constraints of thought rather than results of investigation or experience (1, 2). On pages 1576 and 1573 of this issue, Langston et al. (3) and Wills et al. (4) both refer to Kant's theory and report that critical components of the brain's spatial representation systems are already in place when an animal first encounters an extended environment. This supports the view that spatial representation indeed includes an innate component prior to experience.