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completely new causal series, rather than as mere parts of an ongoing
series of causes. This way of resolving the competing claims made by the
±µ·
Causal laws
idea that all events are to be explained on the basis of natural causality
and the claim that some are to be explained on the basis of causality
from freedom does justice to the antinomial relation that Kant posits
between these two ideals of explanation in the Third Antinomy ( /
· ¬.).

 ° ®   ®  ©  
In discussing human freedom, and the idea that reason has causality,
Kant ascribes to reason the capacity ˜˜to make its own order [of events]
according to ideas with complete spontaneity, in which it ¬ts in empiri-
cal conditions™™ ( µ/ µ·). This complete spontaneity of reason
derives from the link of reason with the spontaneity of self-conscious-
ness:
Only a human being who otherwise knows the whole of nature only through
the senses, knows [erkennt] itself also through mere apperception, and, that is, in
actions and inner determinations that it cannot attribute to impressions of the
senses, and is admittedly on the one hand a phenomenon, but on the other
hand, it is, namely in respect to certain faculties, an intelligible object, since its
action cannot be attributed to the receptivity of sensibility. We call these
faculties understanding and reason, especially if the latter is properly and
emphatically distinguished from all empirically conditioned forces, since it
considers its objects merely according to ideas and determines understanding
accordingly, which then makes empirical use of its (also pure) concepts. (
µ·/ µ·µ)
In claiming that we know ourselves to be intelligible objects through
mere apperception, Kant is using knowledge or cognition (Erkenntnis) in
the general sense that any representation of an object whatsoever may
be called a cognition. He is not saying that we judge this to be the case.
Instead, we have an immediate consciousness of ourselves in appercep-
tion that is independent of any empirical knowledge we may have about
who we are. This capacity is the basis upon which our reason can then
consider alternative possible causal orders of events with its ideas, which
are concepts of totalities of objects. It is also the spontaneity of self-
consciousness that allows us to regard our reason as a capacity that is
distinct from empirically determined forces, and hence capable of
causing events without itself being caused. Thus, the spontaneity of
self-consciousness seems to involve a power of acting that is independent
of any prior causes.
Kant undeniably distinguishes thought from self-consciousness by its
spontaneity, that is, by its activity in contrast to the passivity of sensible
±µ Kant and the demands of self-consciousness
experience. The spontaneity of thought that we have as ¬nite rational
beings is more restricted than the spontaneity of God with His ability to
create things out of nothing. We can only have thoughts and perform
actions in relation to information that is somehow given to us. However,
it is controversial to what extent the spontaneity of thought is relative to
or dependent on experience. Those who see freedom in judgment as
relative, note its dependency on information that is simply given to us
through our ˜˜receptivity.™™ They emphasize the di¬erence between
freedom in thought and the full-blown freedom of the will in the
Kantian sense that is supposed to be able to allow us to act regardless of
the desires and beliefs we may otherwise have.± On the other hand, a
number of commentators wish to ascribe an absolute spontaneity to us
in thought. They point to the close connection between the causality
that Kant ascribes to reason, and the spontaneity of self-consciousness.
Signi¬cantly, Kant seems to draw the distinction between relative
and absolute spontaneity within thought. If one assumes that there is an
actual rather than a possible individual that is thinking, then this
assumption will depend on experience and places a restriction on the
spontaneity of the thought ˜˜I think.™™ On the other hand, if one merely
explores the analytic entailments of the proposition ˜˜I think,™™ then there
is no need to appeal to facts of experience at all. Thus, Kant ascribes to
thought in its general form a kind of pure spontaneity that is completely
independent of the passivity of sense. This purity of spontaneity is based
on the fact that thought is exhausted in such cases by its functional role
in logical inferences:

Thought, taken on its own, is merely the logical function, hence pure sponta-
neity of connection of the manifold of a merely possible intuition, and repre-
sents the subject of consciousness not at all as appearance, merely for this
reason, since it pays no attention to the mode of intuition, whether it is sensible
or intellectual. In this way, I do not represent myself either as I am, nor as I
appear to myself, but rather I think myself as an object in general from whose
intuition I abstract. ( “).

From this passage, it seems safe to conclude that Kant allows for a
kind of pure or absolute spontaneity when I think of myself as a thinker
in general, a merely possible thinker, and analyze the analytic entail-
ments of this notion of myself as a thinker without appealing to any facts
that depend on experience. But Kant also goes on to note that already
the proposition ˜˜I think,™™ when it makes an existential claim in its
assertoric use, ˜˜cannot take place without inner sense™™ and is ˜˜no longer
±µ
Causal laws
mere spontaneity, but also receptivity of intuition™™ ( “°). When-
ever the content of what I am judging depends in some way on the way
the world actually is, I ¬nd myself forced to go outside of the analytic
entailments of my concepts. Under those circumstances, I must appeal
to my experience of the world. This experience of the world is passive in
the sense that it is not completely up to me. I must receive information
from the world.
Kant then contrasts the spontaneity of I thoughts that depend on the
receptivity of intuition with the spontaneity to be found in morality,
noting that in the kind of self-legislation involved in morality ˜˜one
would discover a spontaneity through which our reality was determin-
able without needing the conditions of empirical intuition™™ ( °).
Thus, overall, the passage suggests that the spontaneity of thought is
only a relative spontaneity when it depends on empirical facts about the
world. It is only absolute spontaneity when it is not concerned with
empirical considerations at all. Kant thinks that such complete indepen-
dence from empirical considerations is characteristic of the moral will
and our knowledge of logic.
The best argument for attributing some form of absolute spontaneity
to thought even when it is concerned with empirical facts is based on
Kant™s conviction that the ˜˜I think™™ can accompany any of my repre-
sentations, apparently regardless of my causal situation. This is a central
idea of the Transcendental Deduction. But it is important to note that
the ˜˜I think™™ also presupposes that there be something given to me in
experience to interpret. This would include all facts about myself as a
particular individual. However, if one ascribes absolute spontaneity to
the subject, a problem seems to arise concerning the existence of other
minds. If each person is absolutely spontaneous in their thoughts, then,
in principle, those thoughts are completely independent of any anteced-
ent empirical causal conditions that might govern the thoughts of other
persons as well. The implication is that, even if another person™s behav-
ior seemed to warrant the ascription of thoughts to that person, I could
never be certain that the other person was, in fact, thinking or for that
matter a thinking being at all, since there would be no necessary causal
connection between behavior of the kind which is usually taken to
provide evidence for rationality and the actual existence of rationality.
The argument is not decisive against the ascription of absolute sponta-
neity to thought, but it does seem to require that the manner in which
persons appear to us be characterized only by a relative spontaneity that
is compatible with causal explanation.
±° Kant and the demands of self-consciousness
While self-consciousness may be thought of as absolutely spontaneous
under a description that is purely ¬rst personal, when we turn to the
second- and third-person point of view, we can only ascribe relative
spontaneity to persons. Now, if one takes the claim of the Third
Paralogism in  seriously, a claim I will discuss in the next chapter, the
second- or third-person perspective is presupposed in any consciousness
of oneself as a distinct individual in time with states of consciousness that
have a distinct temporal position. From this, it would seem to follow that
I cannot attribute absolute spontaneity to myself as a particular identi¬-
able individual thinker in time. This claim derives further support from
Kant™s remark in the Antinomy that the observed behavior of an
individual must, in principle, be regarded by us as completely predict-
able.
Kant thinks that there are principles governing the ascription of
thoughts to others as well as to myself. But he does not think that we can
show that either one™s own thoughts or those of others must be as we
must all represent them in order to make sense of them. Thus, it is
perhaps most plausible to distinguish the relative spontaneity that
thinkers have for the purposes of attributing experiences to them from
the possible absolute spontaneity they have in themselves. Rational
deliberation would be uncaused under the description of persons as
things in themselves, but caused under a description of those same
persons as objects of our experience.
In this chapter, I have attempted to place speci¬c laws governing
substances, causation, and interaction in Kant™s scheme for determining
the temporal (and spatial) relations between events and our experiences
of them. I then attempted to ¬t Kant™s notion of the possibility of
causation from freedom into his overall account of action based on
causal covering laws. This allows us to make sense of even a relatively
strong interpretation of the idea that we are able as thinking beings to
respond spontaneously to what we experience.
In the next chapter, I look at the kind of substantive metaphysical
claims about the self that the ¬rst-person point of view provided by
self-consciousness seems to support. I develop Kant™s reasons for reject-
ing the idea that self-consciousness is a substance to which we can
ascribe a metaphysical unity and personal identity that is independent of
a body.
° 

Self-consciousness and the pseudo-discipline of
transcendental psychology



In the last chapter, I noted that Kant takes reason to be concerned with
the articulation of a totality of objects that can never be given to us in
experience. The problem with the totality of objects in question is that it
is nevertheless required by us in order to make sense of experience. This
gives rise to what Kant calls a transcendental illusion:

The cause of this [illusion] is that in our reason (regarded subjectively as a
human faculty of knowledge) lie basic rules and maxims of their use that have
completely the aspect of objective principles and through which it happens that
the subjective necessity of a certain connection of our concepts for the sake of
our understanding is taken to be an objective necessity concerning the determi-
nation of things as they exist in themselves. This illusion is one that is unavoid-
able. ( ·/ µ)

In this chapter, I propose to look at the manner in which the ˜˜I
think,™™ ˜˜the proposition that expresses self-consciousness™™ ( °-°),
gives rise to a transcendental illusion that we can develop a ˜˜transcen-
dental doctrine of the soul, which is falsely thought to be a science of
pure reason concerning the nature of our thinking being™™ ( µ/ ).
As Descartes, and before him Augustine, noted, in using the expression
˜˜cogito,™™ ˜˜I think,™™ one cannot fail to refer to oneself as an individual
who is thinking. The indubitability of I thoughts in contrast to the
dubitability of thoughts about bodies suggested to Descartes the idea of
a purely rational discipline based on the cogito. In this discipline, devel-
oped by Leibniz and Wol¬, we seem to be able to articulate and even
successfully defend metaphysical claims about the nature of the self
based on evidence provided by the cogito. Thus, I initially seem to be able
correctly to infer from the proposition that I am thinking that I am a
thinking substance that has an intrinsic unity to it that must persist
across time and be distinguishable from the identity of any body. Kant
±±
± Kant and the demands of self-consciousness
refers to the discipline in question as ˜˜rational psychology™™ or the
pseudo-discipline of transcendental psychology ( ·).
In the Paralogisms of Rational Psychology, Kant is concerned with
the kind of false inferences (paralogisms) to substantive facts about our
nature as selves from the conditions governing our ability to ascribe
thoughts to ourselves and to other rational beings that he takes to be
constitutive of rational psychology. He wants to expose the transcenden-
tal illusion to which we are necessarily prone in thinking about ourselves
as subjects of experience. With respect to the proposition ˜˜I think,™™
Kant wants to show that de dicto notions of necessity, actuality, and
possibility, that is, modal notions that are properties of propositions, or
of statements, or sentences that express those propositions, cannot be
appealed to in order to support de re modalities, that is, necessities,
actualities, and possibilities that hold of a thing independently of the way
in which we describe the thing. Kant takes the illusions that are gener-
ated by our ability to have I thoughts so seriously, because his own work
prior to the Critique was infected by them.± Indeed, many commentators
have ascribed views in the rest of the Critique to Kant that would seem to
be based on paralogistic inferences from the proposition ˜˜I think.™™ In
particular, a number of commentators have argued that Kant himself
illicitly moves from de dicto necessity claims about what we can become
conscious of through I thoughts to claims of de re necessity concerning
the objects of our I thoughts, while other commentators have argued
that Kant™s views are not as di¬erent from those of rationalists such as
Descartes, Leibniz and Wol¬ as they initially seem to be.
At ¬rst, a critique of rational psychology really seems to be inconsist-
ent with Kant™s own project of articulating a priori constraints on
experience based on the possibility of becoming conscious of the di¬er-
ent individual experiences that make up our experience as a whole.
There is, however, an important di¬erence between providing an a
priori theory of the self and providing an a priori theory of the con-
straints imposed on our experience by the possibility of self-conscious-
ness. If our self-consciousness imposes a priori constraints on the way we
experience objects, then we will experience objects in accordance with
those constraints. This does not imply that we have any knowledge of
the way the self must be independently of such constraints on how we
must represent the self. Kant™s target in the Paralogisms is the view that
we know the way the self is in itself. This would be to know the self in a
manner that is independent of the way in which we must represent the
self in order to ascribe thoughts to individuals.
±
The pseudo-discipline of transcendental psychology
  ©®« ©®§ ¦ ® ¬ ¦  ®¤     © ®«
Kant takes the Cartesian cogito as the starting-point for his re¬‚ections on
the nature of self-consciousness and the self as it presents itself to
self-consciousness. With Descartes, Kant notes that the self-conscious-
ness expressed in the thought ˜˜I am thinking™™ has existential import and
is self-verifying at the time the proposition expressed by the thought ˜˜I
am thinking™™ is asserted by me. The referential force of the proposition
˜˜I think™™ is based on the empirical fact that I am thinking provided by
inner perception. And ˜˜this inner perception is nothing more than the
mere apperception: I think™™ ( / °±). Taken in this sense, which
Kant refers to as the assertoric use of the expression ˜˜I think,™™ ˜˜the I
think, is, as was already said, an empirical proposition, and contains the
proposition, I exist, in itself™™ ( ). There is, however, another sense in
which the thought that I am thinking may be understood. Kant refers to
the usage in question as taking the proposition ˜˜I think™™ ˜˜problemati-
cally™™:
Now I cannot have any representation whatsoever of a thinking being, through
any outer experience, but only through self-consciousness. Objects of this kind
are therefore nothing more than the transference of this consciousness of mine to
other things, which in this way alone can be represented as thinking beings. The
proposition: I think, is taken merely problematically here; not insofar as it
contains a perception of existence (the Cartesian cogito ergo sum) but rather
according to its mere possibility in order to see which properties might ¬‚ow from
this so simple proposition to its subject (whether it exists or not). ( ·/ °µ)
When I use the proposition ˜˜I think™™ ˜˜problematically,™™ the proposi-
tion ˜˜I think™™ is merely entertained as a possible thought, it is not
actually asserted. Initially, it is unclear how such a problematic use of
the statement ˜˜I think™™ is possible. The self-validating character of I
thoughts to which Descartes appeals gives rise to di¬culties here. There
seems to be a (pragmatically) necessary connection between the condi-
tions under which one can entertain the proposition ˜˜I think™™ and the
conditions under which the assertion is true that I am thinking. It thus
seems to be impossible for the proposition ˜˜I think™™ to be entertained
without the proposition actually being true in virtue of being enter-
tained. It then seems possible to infer that the constraints governing the
ascription of thoughts to oneself and to others have the same self-
validating character that is characteristic of the assertion ˜˜I think™™:
It must seem odd right away that the condition under which I can think at all,
and that is therefore merely a property of my subject should be valid for
± Kant and the demands of self-consciousness
everything that thinks, and that we can abrogate the right to base an apodictic
and universal judgment on a seemingly empirical proposition, namely that
everything that thinks is such as the expression of self-consciousness says it to be
in me. The cause of this seems to lie in the following: that we must ascribe to
things a priori all those properties that make up the conditions under which we
can alone think them. ( / °)

Kant assumes with rationalist philosophers that our only grip on the
notion of a thinker is based on our ability to ascribe to such a thinker a
point of view that is like our own in the sense that we could conceive of
ourselves as being able to take up the point of view of such a creature.
However, this very process of transference that is the key to representing
other minds allows us to understand what it might mean for me to
represent myself as a thinker from whose actual existence I abstract.
From the fact that I can think of someone else thinking, it does not
follow that such a person actually exists. In thinking of another being as
one of us, we think of that being as having a point of view that, in
principle, is intelligible to us, and that could even have been our own
had our history been su¬ciently di¬erent.
In the feat of transference involved in thinking of what it would be like
for me to understand or perceive the world from a di¬erent vantage-
point I am no longer using the ˜˜I™™ that is represented by me in such
transference to refer to an actual particular individual. I am using the
expression ˜˜I think™™ counterfactually, or as Kant puts it ˜˜problematically,™™
since I am thinking of what it would be like to represent the world from
the point of view of that rational being.
In order for me to represent a point of view that might have been my
own, but is not in fact my own, I must be thinking of myself in a quite
attenuated way. In counterfactual self-reference, I am not referring to
myself as the particular individual who I am. I cannot as a particular
individual be identical with another individual, since each thing is that
thing and not some other thing. Although I am still thinking of a
permutation of myself, it is important to note that I am not thinking that
Pierre Keller might be identical with Charles de Gaulle or the Red
King, which would violate the principle of identity. The temptation is to
think that I am then a thinking being that is no particular thinking
being. This leads me to conclude that I have grasped what is essential to
the very existence and nature of a thinking being, whereas in fact I have
merely come to see what is required in order for me to think of another
being as a thinker.
When I think of di¬erent alternative counterparts to myself in di¬er-
±µ
The pseudo-discipline of transcendental psychology
ent possible experiences, I think of myself as a subject of experience that
functions in a way analogous to a variable = x for which I can then
substitute di¬erent individual constants. This is what Kant calls the
representation of ˜˜a transcendental subject of thought = x™™ by means of
the ˜˜simple and for itself completely empty of content representation: I™™
( / °). I can think that I might have been Charles de Gaulle or
the Red King rather than Pierre Keller. I am neither asserting that I as
this particular individual exist nor that the other individual actually
exists. Since I can interpret myself as a potential point of view among
other possible points of view, I can even think of what it would be like to
be conscious of myself as I am. Counterfactual self-reference applies not
only to the thought of my being somebody else, but also to the thought
of my having a particular possible point of view. While we can say that
such counterfactual reference to ourselves underlies our understanding
of others as rational beings, and even of ourselves, we cannot therefore
conclude that we have the kind of natures as rational beings that such
counterfactual reference to ourselves seems to suggest that we have.
In ascribing thoughts to others on the basis of the ¬rst-person per-
spective expressed by the statement ˜˜I think,™™ I have e¬ectively severed
the thought ˜˜I think™™ from the pragmatic conditions of use that guaran-
tee that the proposition it expresses is true. This means that I cannot
take a logical analysis of the conceptual entailments of the proposition ˜˜I
think™™ to tell me substantive metaphysical truths about the nature of
thinking beings. It is not that my concept of a thinker is clearly an
illegitimate one. It is just that it is my or our concept of a thinker. A
certain concept may well be the only one we have available to us. But we
are not therefore entitled to say that the only way the thing could be is
the way that we must capture with our concept of the thing in question.
So I cannot assume that the conditions governing my ascription of
thoughts to rational beings must mirror the intrinsic nature of rational
beings.
There is a strong temptation to think that one can establish substan-
tive claims about the way all rational beings must be from the conditions
under which we are compelled to ascribe rationality to ourselves and
others. Succumbing to the temptation leads to what Kant calls a
˜˜transcendental use of the understanding™™ ( / °). By abstracting
from the empirical conditions under which we use concepts, the puta-
tive use of concepts in question runs together our concept of a certain
object with the inherent nature of that object ( ·/ °). The
temptation arises because of the link that holds for us between self-
± Kant and the demands of self-consciousness
consciousness and our understanding of what it is to be rational. The
temptation becomes compelling if one fails to distinguish the actual
from the counterfactual form of self-reference. For then we seem to be
able to infer how rational beings in general must be from the manner in
which we are conscious of ourselves.
The connection between self-consciousness and rationality suggests
that in articulating the structure of self-consciousness we are also articu-
lating the nature of a rational being. But Kant insists that the ˜˜I think™™ is
something that we must regard as a ˜˜merely subjective condition™™ of knowl-
edge which we are prone to regard as a way of understanding the nature
of rational beings:
[T]he formal proposition of apperception: I think which proposition is admit-
tedly no experience, but rather the form of apperception belonging to and
preceding every experience, is to be regarded always only in respect to possible
cognition in general as a merely subjective condition of it, that we wrongly make into
a condition of the possibility of objects, namely into the concept of a thinking
being in general, since we can only represent such beings by placing the
formula of our consciousness in the place of every other rational being. ( µµ)

There is a natural and, indeed, to some extent unavoidable tendency to
confuse the conditions under which we make sense of rational beings
with the conditions under which such beings can exist at all. The bearer
of representations when represented as a self (as a representer conscious
of being a representer) must be represented from the ¬rst-person point
of view. This strongly suggests that the way the self is represented from
the ¬rst-person point of view displays necessary facts about the bearer of
that point of view. But these putatively necessary facts turn out to be
nothing but artefacts of the way we must think of those to whom we
ascribe rationality.


·         °    ¬  §©   ?
Kant works through four di¬erent ways in which each of us as subjects
of self-consciousness must represent ourselves. These four di¬erent ways
of representing ourselves seem to verify themselves in any self-con-
sciousness: (±) We are conscious of ourselves as basic subjects or substan-
ces. In self-consciousness we are conscious of whatever or whoever it is
that has such self-consciousness. We cannot fail to refer to the bearer of
self-consciousness in self-consciousness. () We are conscious of our-

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