Kant's first paralogism

Philosophical Review 119 (4):449–495 (2010)
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In the part of the first Critique known as “The Paralogisms of Pure Reason” Kant seeks to explain how even the most acute metaphysicians could have arrived, through speculation, at the ruefully dogmatic conclusion that the self (understood as the subject of thoughts or "thinking I") is a substance. His diagnosis has two components: first, the positing of the phenomenon of “Transcendental Illusion”—an illusion, modelled on but distinct from, optical illusion--that predisposes human beings to accept as sound--and as known to sound--certain in fact flawed arguments for substantive theses about the nature of the self; second, the identification of the fallacy we commit when we succumb to this illusion. It is explained how these two elements combine to produce a central instance of (what Kant sees as) dogmatic speculative metaphysics, namely, the doctrine that the self is a substance in the sense of a necessarily non-inhering subject of inherence. It is argued that Kant has a novel, ingenious, and even somewhat plausible account of the route by which the rational psychologist arrives--or might arrive--at this view, an account that involves identifying a rather deep-rooted confusion about the very nature of conceivability.

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Ian Proops
University of Texas at Austin

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