How Not to Investigate the Human Mind: Kant on the Impossibility of Empirical Psychology

In Eric Watkins (ed.), Kant and the Sciences. Oxford University Press (2001)

Authors
Thomas Sturm
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Abstract
This essay reconsiders Kant's denial of scientific status to the discipline of empirical psychology, which have often been viewed as quite problematic. In the preface to the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, Kant denies that psychology can be natural science proper. I argue that Kant's impossibility claim is based on a very specific conception of science that he did not put forward elsewhere, and that is restricted to *natural* sciences in any case. Also, Kant's critical remarks are directed merely against a particular conception of psychology, namely one going back to Baumgarten and adopted by many psychologists in the eighteenth century, according to which introspection is the sole means of gathering empirical evidence about the mind. Although this particular conception of psychology precludes it from being natural science proper, it is possible that other conceptions of psychology could allow it to be scientific. Also, for Kant the study of the mind should not be introspection-based. He himself developed a "pragmatic anthropology", which he viewed as a significant factor in our knowledge of the world
Keywords Kant  Empirical Psychology  Mathematical Science  Introspection  Tetens, Johann Nicolas
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