From Anthropology to Rational Psychology in Kant's Lectures on Metaphysics

In Courtney D. Fugate (ed.), Kant's Lectures on Metaphysics: A Critical Guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 194-213 (2019)
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Abstract

In this essay I position Kant's "psychology" portion of the lectures on metaphysics against the backdrop of Kant's work to develop a new lecture course on anthropology during the 1770s. I argue that the development of this course caused significant trouble for Kant in three distinct ways, though in each case the difficulty would turn on Kant's approach to "empirical psychology." The first problem for Kant had to do with refashioning psychology such that empirical psychology could be reassigned to anthropology and rational psychology protected from the spectre of subreption. The second problem, and in many way the larger one for Kant during this time period, followed from Kant's desire to make use of empirical psychology's account of the mental faculties in his own transcendental theory of cognition. This introduced a separate problem for Kant, however, since this was a time during which physiological psychology was on the rise, a psychology that was being promoted by Ernst Platner and his followers, as "anthropology." This left Kant with the unwelcome task of simultaneously distinguishing his own philosophical anthropology from Platner's, and distancing his own transcendental theory of cognition from the likes of Herder and Tetens, given their embrace of the "embodied mind" approach being advanced by the physiological psychologists.

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Jennifer Mensch
Western Sydney University

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