Kant on Consciousness

In Sara Heinämaa & Martina Reuter (eds.), Psychology and Philosophy: Inquiries into the Soul from Late Scholasticism to Contemporary Thought. Springer Verlag (2008)
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The chapter examines Kant’s conceptions of consciousness and their relation to his views on psychology as a science. Kant does not develop a philosophy of mind as such, but through his reinterpretation of metaphysics he develops different notions of consciousness. The most central and specifically Kantian concept of consciousness is that of apperception. It is argued that ‘apperception’ is not to be understood as self-consciousness or self-awareness. Rather, apperception is a capacity to be aware of one’s spontaneous activities, and it can be further analyzed as the ability to respond to rules and norms. Thus understood, ‘apperception’ plays a central role not only in Kant’s theoretical philosophy but also in his moral and aesthetic theory. ‘Inner sense’ is another central concept for Kant. In the first Critique and later works, Kant distinguishes between apperception and inner sense: inner sense is the consciousness of what takes place within the mind as opposed to apperception, which is the consciousness of one’s activities. These two concepts of consciousness, ‘inner sense’ and ‘apperception’, generate two very different questions about the relation between consciousness and nature. On the one hand, there is the question of how inner or mental nature is related to physical nature; on the other hand, there is the question of how spontaneity is related to the whole of nature, inner nature as well as outer. As we shall see, Kant’s answer to the first question is closely related to his pessimism regarding the status of psychology as a science.



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Camilla Serck-Hanssen
University of Oslo

Citations of this work

Consciousness as Inner Sensation: Crusius and Kant.Jonas Jervell Indregard - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5.
Kant’s View of the Mind and Consciousness of Self.Andrew Brook - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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