Philosophers' Imprint 5 (7):1-34 (2005)
In the first Critique, Kant says, “[A]ll the actions of a human being are determined in accord with the order of nature,” adding that “if we could investigate all the appearances . . . there would be no human action we could not predict with certainty.” Most Kantian treatments of human action discuss action from a practical perspective, according to which human beings are transcendentally free, and thus do not sufficiently lay out this Kant’s empirical, causal description of human action. Drawing on Kant’s lectures in empirical psychology and his anthropological writings, this paper offers a clear and detailed elucidation of Kant’s empirical account of human action. After explaining the connection between cognitions, feelings, desires, and actions, I show how the lower faculty of desire is governed by various instincts, inclinations, and propensities, and how the higher faculty of desire is governed by (empirical) character. I also discuss how character and inclinations arise from natural human propensities combined with other empirical causes. By looking at both Kant’s faculty psychology and his account of predispositions, I lay out an overall Kantian framework for explaining any kind of human action.
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