Self-consciousness, self-determination, and imagination in Kant

Topoi 7 (1):65-79 (1988)
Abstract
I argue for a basically Sartrean approach to the idea that one's self-concept, and any form of knowledge of oneself as an individual subject, presupposes concepts and knowledge about other things. The necessity stems from a pre-conceptual structure which assures that original self-consciousness is identical with one's consciousness of objects themselves. It is not a distinct accomplishment merely dependent on the latter. The analysis extends the matter/form distinction to concepts. It also requires a distinction between two notions of consciousness: one relates to the employment of already formed concepts, the other to the structures of imaginative apprehension that help to constitute (empirical) concepts from the start. We need to see that (1) so far as objects are only conceptualized appearances, the material through which we apprehend them must be reflected in that apprehension itself; (2) the corresponding material consists of a manifold of pre-conceptually active anticipations and retentions concerning the course of one's own experience. The resultant structure imposes an orientation on the world of appearances that does not derive from a concept of oneself as an individual in it, but that nevertheless provides the only possible basis for such a concept. One's self-concept, at least as empirical subject, is simply that ofwhatever subject is indicated, in an appropriate way, by that orientation.
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