Kant and the Demands of Self-Consciousness

By Pierre Keller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
How independent is the self from its body?

In the last chapter I developed Kant's general argument against the kind of inferences that lie at the basis of rational psychology. After looking at his general objections to efiorts to infer substantive facts about our nature as thinkers from the way we must think of ourselves, on the basis of the way in which we must think of ourselves in order to ascribe thoughts to ourselves I then turned to his arguments against treating us as thinking things, in the sense of bona fide thinking substances or persons that have identity over time. In this chapter, I explore Kant's arguments in the Paralogisms against Cartesian metaphysical and epistemological dualism. I concentrate on the Second and Fourth Paralogisms.


THE SECOND PARALOGISM

The Second Paralogism attacks what Kant regards as the most illustrious champion to be found among the arguments of rational psychology. The “Achilles” of all rationalist proofs is the argument from the nature of thought to the metaphysical simplicity of the thinker who thinks. Kant's sympathy with the argument from simplicity has to do with his deep commitment to the logical simplicity of the “I.” By this he means that our representation of self does not contain anything per se that would serve to distinguish one self from another self. For instance in the B-Deduction, Kant motivates the need for synthesis in order for one to be able to represent the identity of the self in difierent representations by noting that “through the I as simple representation no manifold is given” (B 135). 1 In that context, Kant contrasts the kind of simplicity of I representation that is supposed to characterize our discursive minds with the kind of intuitive intellect that could be ascribed to God.

Neither Descartes nor Leibniz would disagree with Kant's theory that rational psychology would have to be based on “the simple and for itself

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