Kant, McDowell and the theory of consciousness

European Journal of Philosophy 5 (3):283-305 (1997)
This paper examines some of the central arguments of John McDowell's Mind and World, particularly his treatment of the Kantian themes of the spontaneity of thought and of the nature of self-consciousness. It is argued that in so far as McDowell departs from Kant, his position becomes less plausible in three respects. First, the space of reason is identified with the space of responsible and critical freedom in a way that runs together issues about synthesis below the level of concepts and at the level of complete judgements. This leads to the unwarranted exclusion of animal minds from the space of reasons. Second, McDowell draws no essential distinction between apperception and inner sense, a distinction which is important to a defensible Kantian view and to the very idea of a sui generis transcendental knowledge of the mind that is consistent with Kant's critical principles. McDowell does not take into account some of Kant's developed arguments about the inherently reflective nature of consciousness which is interpreted as an adverbial theory of the nature of conscious experience, a mode of being in a mental state . Third, McDowell endorses a standard treatment of Kant's approach to the mind in which a merely formal account of mind needs to be anchored outside consciousness on the physical body. The arguments for this conclusion, both in Mind and World and in related work by Bermudez and Hurley, is shown to be very inconclusive as a criticism of Kant. The capacity to self-ascribe thoughts that are already conscious shows, but does not say, a truth about the unity of our conscious experience that does not require further anchoring on a physical body; at that stage of the Critique Kant is describing conditions for conscious experience in general, not the conscious experience of spatio-temporally located makers of judgements. The alleged lacuna in Kant's arguments is no lacuna at all
Keywords Consciousness  Metaphysics  Mind  Kant  Mcdowell, J
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DOI 10.1111/1468-0378.00041
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