Assist. Prof. Sabina Bremner

Assist. Prof. Sabina Bremner

Humboldt Fellow

Period at the center: May 2023 - November 2024

Research Project: “The Revisable A Priori”



Sabina is an assistant professor in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. She previously served as assistant professor of history of philosophy at the University of Groningen and defended her PhD at Columbia University in 2020. Her interests are both historical (Kant and 19th-20th centuries) and thematic (issues in ethics, social critique, aesthetics, philosophy of science). She has written on these issues in figures including Kant, Marx, Beauvoir, Foucault, and JL Austin. In addition to the Humboldt Foundation, her work has been supported by the American Council for Learned Societies, Mellon Foundation, and Council for European Studies.

Research Project

“The Revisable A Priori”

At Potsdam, I will be elaborating a reading of a revisable conception of the Kantian a priori and examining its legacy in the post-Kantian tradition. I trace this conception to Kant’s theory of reflective judgment: the activity of reflective judgment is grounded in a principle which is a priori and transcendental, but, unlike the a priori laws of theoretical and practical reason, is merely subjectively necessary rather than objective. It thus responds to a need springing solely from our finite capacities of cognition, producing mere ‘heuristics’ or ‘presuppositions’ rather than laws, or principles of thinking which can only be vindicated in practice. My claim is that the ‘a priori’ at issue in the Critique of Judgment has a different sense than the a priori status of the categories of understanding or forms of intuition of the Critique of Pure Reason. The aprioricity of reflective judgment, as merely subjectively necessary and open to empirical confirmation, undermines the definition of the Kantian a priori as (objectively) necessary, universal, and independent of experience: it instead suggests a sense of the a priori open to revision.

I will be investigating how Kant’s neglected interest in the revisable a priori is elaborated in the 19th and 20th century—not by rejecting the a priori, as is often posited, but in terms of a new interpretation of it as historical and changeable. Key figures in the post-Kantian tradition, including Marx and Nietzsche, have been typically understood as anti-Kantian: critics of universalist morality, of the ahistorical a priori, and of idealisms uncontaminated by empirical realities. Instead, I will be elaborating readings on which these figures are continuing the Kantian project, albeit in ways obscured by the predominant readings of Kant as wedded to an unrevisable conception of the a priori. On my interpretation, the thoroughgoing transformations of the a priori/empirical distinction in this tradition are continuous with Kant’s own trajectory in undertaking the critical project.

Selected publications


Practical Judgment as Reflective Judgment: Moral Salience and Kantian Particularist Universalism.” European Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming). 

“The Early Marx, a Materialism of Sensibility as Activity, and the Myth of the Given.” In Practices of Truth: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, P. Gori and L. Serini (eds), Routledge (forthcoming).

On Moral Unintelligibility: Simone de Beauvoir’s Genealogy of Morality.” The Monist 105:4 (2022): 521-540. 

Culture and the Problem of Unity in Kant’s Critique of Judgment.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 104.2 (2022): 367-402. 

On Conceptual Revision and Aesthetic Judgment.” Kantian Review 26:4 (2021): 531-547. 

Anthropology as Critique: Foucault, Kant, and the Metacritical Tradition.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 28:2 (2020), 336-358