May 3, 2023


REVIEW: of Katharina T. Kraus, Kant on Self-Knowledge and Self-Formation: The Nature of Inner Experience (Reviewed by Pirachula Chulanon, 5/03/23, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

We make empirical judgments by which we ascribe mental states located in time (like occurrent thoughts, desires, and so on) to ourselves and, hence, to a self that is identical through time and across different mental states. Kant seems nowhere to deny the possibility of empirical judgments about oneself. On the contrary, it is plausible to identify these judgments, as Kraus does, with the conceptual content of what he calls inner experience (130). However, Kant also indicates that there is an important disparity between inner and outer experience: unlike outer intuition, inner intuition does not present us with any persistent object, and so it fails to meet the condition for applying the category of substance (and, consequently, the other relational categories). Kraus's account of inner experience seeks to address the problem of how, despite the disparity, inner experience is possible as empirical cognition of the thinker-qua-object or the psychological person. In Kraus's view, inner sense by itself does not yield an object-directed representation of a self that is identical across different representations and through time (Chapter 2). Neither can this self-representation be derived from transcendental apperception, since this constitutes only the "general form of reflexivity" that pertains to any conscious representations of objects (Chapter 3). Thus, the problem is how we get from inner intuition and the awareness of reflexivity of our representations to referential or reflective self-consciousness.

The first part of Kraus's solution (Chapter 4) explicates the relationship between the logical I (the subject of apperception) and the psychological I (the object of inner experience). As Kraus rightly insists, there must be a sense in which the two I-representations are "identical regarding their referent" (152). She fleshes out this identity claim as the claim that a successful referential use of 'I' must ascribe representations that are unified through their belonging to one and the same consciousness (expressed by the 'I think', 108-9) to one and the same real subject. Thus, the question is how 'I', which originally is a mere expression of the form of reflexivity of my representations, comes to refer to me as a real psychological entity. Kraus proposes that the answer is given in the Paralogisms. The positive contribution of the Paralogisms is the specification of the "logical predicates" of 'I', from which the "semantic rules" that fix its referent in experience can be derived. For instance, the minor premise of the second paralogism states that I must think of myself as "an absolute (though merely logical) unity" (A350). This entails, according to Kraus, the following semantic rule: "The mental equivalent of 'I' refers to a single referent who cannot be divided into self-standing parts" (149). Kraus's fundamental point, as I understand it, is that the 'I think' specifies a priori the determinations of oneself as an object of thought prior to that object being given intuition and in accordance with the condition of sensibility. In other words, the reflexive structure of my representations dictates how I must think of myself as an object of possible cognition: "If these logical predicates define conditions of how one must think of oneself, then they also define conditions of how one must cognize oneself, since cognition presupposes thought" (148). In this way, we can explain how 'I' can refer to myself as an object of inner experience (if it turns out that there is such an object).

This is a bold and intriguing thesis. However, it is unclear how the mere "logical exposition" of the 'I think' can yield rules that fix the referent of 'I' when employed in empirical contexts (unless, perhaps, it is supplemented with a metaphysical account of representational activity which maps logical features of representations to real features of the representing subject). How can an a priori representation that expresses the "mere form of consciousness" entail what the subject of that consciousness is like? If the 'I think' is merely formal and empty (cf. A346/B404), how can the determinations of the thinker-qua-object "follow analytically" from it? Indeed, Kraus emphasizes that these determinations are "logical" and not "real determinations of a real thinking agent" (146).

Making Descartes into even worse gobbledygook, only in German, is how Europe ended up so backwards.

Posted by at May 3, 2023 1:17 PM