Dyck, Corey W.: Kant and Rational Psychology

By Fisher, Naomi | The Review of Metaphysics, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Dyck, Corey W.: Kant and Rational Psychology


Fisher, Naomi, The Review of Metaphysics


DYCK, Corey W. Kant and Rational Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. xx + 257 pp. Cloth, $74.00--Dyck's detailed historical study places Kant's critical philosophy and his treatment of the soul, particularly in the Paralogisms in the Critique of Pure Reason, in the context of eighteenth-century German philosophy. He argues that the target of the Paralogisms is not primarily Leibniz or Descartes, but a Wolffian position held by both students and critics of Wolff as well as the pre-critical Kant himself. Thus the Paralogisms do not have as their primary target a narrowly rationalistic or formalistic rational psychology; rather, Kant identifies the source of the illusion in the Paralogisms as the improper empiricism of his rationalist predecessors, in that they take the concept of the soul originally provided by experience as the subject of rational psychology.

Dyck begins in chapter one with Christian Wolffs rational psychology, showing that it is not narrowly rationalistic, but is a "mixed science" in which the results of empirical psychology can serve as premises in the philosophical demonstrations of rational psychology. In chapter two, he traces the fate of these methods through the eighteenth century, in figures such as Meier, Crusius, Tetens, and the pre-critical Kant, showing that they too--in accord with Wolff and in contrast to Leibniz--take empirical psychology as a starting point and, to varying degrees, a touchstone for rational psychology. In the third chapter, Dyck discusses the fate of this tradition in the critical philosophy. Kant's target in the Paralogisms is not the narrow rationalism of Leibniz or Descartes, but this Wolffian tradition of which Kant himself was a part: Kant has as his primary target the illusion that the T is originally given as an object of inner experience, mistaking the unity of inner experience with an inappropriately inferred substantial unity underlying that experience.

Dyck then turns to how this illusion operates in the remaining three Paralogisms--on simplicity, personality, and idealism, addressed in chapters four through six, respectively. Although they build on results of previous chapters, each can also usefully be read in isolation, as they each contain a history of German rational psychology with respect to the topic of the relevant Paralogism and then an interpretation of that Paralogism in light of that history. The sixth chapter helpfully shows why the oft-discounted fourth Paralogism is relevant to the rational psychology of Kant and his predecessors. …

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