"Kant on Self-Knowledge and Self-Formation"


Location: 131 Decio Hall (View on map.nd.edu)

Katharina Kraus (Notre Dame)


131 Decio Faculty Hall


The notion of an empirical person raises a puzzle for Kant’s transcendental philosophy. On the one hand, an empirical person is conceived of as exercising mental capacities, such as reasoning, willing, and feeling, and hence as capable of representing the world and of initiating actions. As such, it cannot be intuited in accordance with (at least) some conditions of empirical cognition; for instance, it cannot be intuited as a persistent mental substance. On the other hand, an empirical person is understood as being embedded in the spatiotemporal and causally structured empirical world. This raises the questions of what kind of “entity” an empirical person is and how we can know ourselves as such. Can an empirical person be cognized as an object of experience at all, or does it have an entirely different status? In this talk, I offer a novel reading of Kant’s account of psychological personhood – an account that is able to resolve this puzzle by appealing to Kant’s conception of reason and in particular to the rational idea of the soul. My argument comes in two parts. 
First, I show that we can have empirical cognition of ourselves as empirical persons, i.e., inner experience. Such experience should, however, not be understood as the cognition of a mere object, e.g., a spatio-physical object. Nonetheless, inner experience proceeds by analogy with the cognition of such objects. This analogy, I argue, rests on the regulative use of the idea of the soul. 
Secondly, I defend what I call the self-formation view of personhood. On this view, a person is understood as a mental whole that first forms herself in the course of realizing her mental capacities under the guidance of a unifying idea, the idea of the soul. Hence, I argue that this idea is also practically efficient in the self-formation of persons in that the idea normatively prescribes what it takes to be an integrated mental whole. I conclude by drawing some consequence regarding the co-dependence of empirical self-knowledge and self-formation. 

This talk is part of the "Kant and the Self" workshop.