Lecture Notes for Class 12 (Today)

            The Paralogisms        
            Not only the analytic “I think” but also the synthetic unity of apperception, the spontaneous, active ground of the first, seem to leave first personal thoughts empty of content. Pure self-consciousness is not a case of conceptual thinking (let alone, nonconceptual intuition).
               The subject of the categories cannot by thinking the categories acquire a concept of itself as an object of the categories. For in order to think them, its pure self-consciousness, which is what was to be explained, must itself be presupposed (377)
 
            The spontaneity of synthetic apperception, also, seems ineffable. What we come to think about or be conscious of ourselves through it, is the spontaneous activity itself. «I exist as an intelligence which is conscious solely of its power of combination» (169); «all that I can do is to represent to myself the spontaneity of my thought» (169 fn.).
            This points to a complication in Kant’s conception of the first person. Since such conception is an instance of self-constitution, this is of great interest for us.               
 
            (1) Tensions in Kant’s “I”
            Our discussion of the first person in the Transcendental Deduction can be summarized in five points.
            (a) The demand for a logically irreducible first person (as a kind or form of representation) arises at the deepest foundational or transcendental level of Transcendental Logic, in connection with the possibility of conceptual, discursive thought and thereby of knowledge.
            (b) The necessarily first personal character of Kant’s foundational construct is grounded in the nature of the foundational demand itself: what is required is a non-intuitive, non-object dependent possibility of thought that is conceptual but non-categorial. The first personal presence of one’s own thinking, the indirect reflexive “I think”, according to Kant, satisfies these requirements.
            (c) Kant’s first person is thin as to its contents; both as analytic and as synthetic condition on representations, as an expression of spontaneity,  it is objectless and identification-free; its representational character is that of a viewpoint and not of a view.
            (d) The “I think” as a conceptual mode of representation must make possible: (i) self-individuation, presence to myself as myself. (ii) Self-re-identification, the consciousness of myself as one and the same across representations (one common consciousness). (iii) The bare thought of my existence, modeled on Cartesian cogito.
            (e) The first-personal viewpoint and the view of an objective world of spatial and temporal objects and events and of their laws (nature, which includes the self or subject) mutually imply each other, analytically and transcendentally. The first person should not be subjective in any sense that excludes the thought and cognition of the world import or involves privacy and ineffability.
 
(2) Semantic Tensions
Now, these requirements raise contrasting demands on the conception of the first person.
The representational character of “I think” does not consist in securing intuitive acquaintance with or conceptual identification of any object. On this standard, the “I” of the “I think” seems empty of content: it does not allow referring in a determinate way to any object. However, Kant must keep firm that the “I think” is a representation. There is the familiar Cartesian and token-reflexive point that, by the use of a token of “I”, we indeterminately but assuredly refer to ourselves as the authors of that token. This is, of course, in keeping with the general semantic rule for “I”: with an occurrence of use of “I”, I refer to myself.
However, also this bare referential import cannot exhaust the representational properties of “I” of the “I think”. Kant introduces it as a necessary accompaniment of all my representations. We have excluded that this makes of I or self an element of the content of any and each of my representations; or an element of content with which any representation of mine has a necessary relation (this was Hume’s lesson; Locke was somewhat ambiguous on this point).
I can perfectly well express my own representations with a sentence like “I think so and so”. But this explicit reflective form is not necessary for representations to be mine. Rather, as we have seen, representations are possible for me because of the first-personal manner in which their occurrence, and thereby their contents, are present to me. “I” in “I think” represents my own self only in that it makes representations present as mine.
Thus, not only token-reflexive reference is not all there is to “I think”; it also seems to be a misguided way of reading Kant. The representational property of “I” in “I think”, which can make a difference as to the possibility of representations and of the understanding, should secure self-consciousness in thinking and representing. This goes well beyond the fundamental semantic rule for “I”.
It indicates that the representation “I” in “I think” should not be characterized in terms of reference but rather of an irreducibly individual manner of self-presentation. This means that “I” in “I think”, while bare, identification-free at the level of reference, must express an individual, immediately and uniquely mine, well-determined manner of self-representation. Otherwise, it could not perform its transcendental role.
Therefore, there is not only a tension between the purely formal character of this use of the first person and its necessary individuating import with regard to myself; there is also a tension between the referential and the mode of presentation dimensions of such individuating import.
 
            (3) Epistemic and Ontological Tensions
              Rightly on account of its transcendental role, the “I think” is in two respects an epistemically formal principle.
            In the first place, it is put forward as simply analytic: If a representation of so and so is mine, one I have, the first-personal consciousness of thinking that representation must accompany it. No real knowledge is delivered in this way.
            In the second place, the synthetic activity of the thinking subject, manifested in the analytic “I think”, figures at the foundational level only in the abstract guise of the activity of judging, articulated in its logical forms and the categories. Nothing is postulated about its content and this includes the nature of the judging agent: its existence, quality, and persistence or identity.
            At the same time, the “I think” must express a legitimate and recognizable individual viewpoint in cognition: one falling short of self-knowledge but summing up to self-consciousness, to my possible identification and re-identification as myself.
            In this way, it is a problem (not one that cannot be solved by Kant: but still a problem deserving attention) how to draw the distinction between this sort of self-consciousness and self-knowledge; the “I think” cannot be empty but must deploy first-personal cognitive content.
The “I think” also involves an ontological commitment, since in the «synthetic original unity of apperception, I am conscious of myself, not as I appear to myself, not as I am in myself, but only that I am» (168). Kant remarks that this representation is a thought, not an intuition; which is how we can know and assert existence. Still he insists on the Cartesian insight that «my existence is not indeed appearance (still less an illusion) » (168-169). But it is not easy how to accommodate existence in the first person in a ‘middle ground’ between existence as appearance and existence in itself.
 
(3) Rational Psychology and Kant’s Philosophy of the Subject
              These considerations introduce Kant’s criticism of the rationalist (or empiricist: but rationalism is prominent) metaphysics of the subject, what Kant calls Rational Psychology, in the Paralogisms, the second Book of the Transcendental Dialectic, Kant’s criticism and reassessment of metaphysic in the Critique.
            The formal, logical, functional character of analytic and synthetic transcendental apperception or “I think” is prominent in Kant’s discussion of the metaphysics of subject: Rational Psychology has been oblivious to the true character of the “I” and has mistaken logical properties of it for metaphysical ones.
            The prominence assigned to the logical character of the “I think” in the discussion of Rational Psychology must be kept together with its necessary first-personal character. After all, we have seen that Kant derivesthe first personal character of pure, primitive, or transcendental apperception precisely from its logical-transcendental position and function. Rational Psychology has misunderstood the first person just as it has misunderstood the demand for transcendental apperception.
But, on the other hand, the mistakes of Rational Psychology are not accidental or whimsical. Quite the contrary: as it is in general the case with the dialectical employment of reason and its ideas, they have natural and unavoidable grounds; they express natural epistemic illusions, which can be kept under critical control but cannot be dissolved.
What I want to suggest is that the tensions that can be easily detected in Kant’s own construal of the first person are also in many respects the roots of the illusions of the traditional metaphysics of the subject. In these respects, Rational Psychology is a simplified and erroneous response to the semantic, epistemic, and ontological complications of a conception of the subject that takes into account and aims to include its logical and first personal dimensions.
We could say that Kant’s Paralogisms have in his theory a role somewhat resembling Locke’s «strange suggestions»: the strangeness of the suggestions, just as the illusions of Rational Psychology, indicate and express the intrinsic complexity of the first personal concept of self or subject. Rational Psychology opts out of these complications by reifying the first person. But also Kant’s positive theory must find a way to frame a full, coherent, and robust conception of the subjective I.
This can also be gathered from Kant’s general attitude to the metaphysics of the subject. Kant’s discussion of the nature of the subject of thought and action; its existence, quality, and identity; the concept of person, are not part of his foundational doctrine but of his critical discussion of traditional (rationalist) metaphysics (323, 325).
Kant’s attitude to this sort of metaphysics is complex. He wants to dismiss any claim to a full understanding and knowledge of its subject matters, including the thinking subject. But he also wants to carve out a role for some the concepts addressed in these metaphysical doctrines. In particular, he wants to show how such concepts can have a second-order application, in correcting and improving our first order conceptual apparatus.
Kant also wants to make room for non-epistemic applications of these concepts, for instance, in belief or faith; or in assuming certain practical postulates; and also in outlining, if only indeterminately and problematically, an immaterialist conception of the subject. Therefore, his very aim to a different use of the concepts of the metaphysics of subject, of Rational Psychology, require Kant to provide a consistent and adequate formulation of the semantics, epistemology, and ontology of the first person.
 
(3) The Aims and Structure of Rational Psychology
Kant singles out soul, a strictly metaphysical notion, to connote Rational Psychology. More in particular, Kant’s name for it, «transcendental doctrine of the soul», points to the inner tension that ultimately dooms this metaphysical enterprise: the apparatus of a priori, transcendental concepts is applied to generate a substantive doctrine of a non-empirical object, the soul.
This is in contrast with applications that generate knowledge  but only of empirical objects or that are not empirically restricted but do not generate knowledge. In the first respect, rational psychology is to be contrasted with empirical psychology, based on introspection or inner sense. In the second respect, rational psychology is to be contrasted with the transcendental conception of the subject of thought, considered only in its logical- transcendental function of securing the unity of representations in experience.
This second contrast is theoretically the most important one, because it unveils the conceptual structure of the rationalist metaphysics of the subject and allows pointing to the logical fallacies it harbors.
First. The transcendental concept or principle that underlies Rational Psychology is the “I think”. This is a formal representation expressing the logical function of the first person or of self-consciousness, which is required for the possibility of a priori cognition. In fact, in the first edition of the Critique, the “I think”, which is prominent and crucial in the Transcendental Deduction of the second edition (the one I have followed in my presentation), is only introduced in the first Chapter of the Paralogisms.
We now come to a concept which was not inserted in the general list of transcendental concepts, and yet must be reckoned with them, but at the same time without in the least altering, or indicating a deficiency in that table. This is the concept, or, if the term is preferred, the judgement, "I think." But it is readily perceived that this thought is as it were the vehicle of all concepts in general, and consequently of transcendental concepts also, and that it is therefore regarded as a transcendental conception, although it can have no peculiar claim to be so ranked, inasmuch as its only use is to indicate that all thought is accompanied by consciousness (A 329)
 
Second. This formal, transcendental representation (which is also distinctly and recognizably expression of the first person) is taken and treated by rational psychologists as the concept of an object. This is the crucial and wrong turn taken by the metaphysics of self.
The structure of Rational Psychology consists in aiming to integrate the conception of the self or subject that is articulated in terms of consciousness and the first person (including the concept of self-affection) with a corresponding ontological commitment. In Rational Psychology, the “I think” counts as the presumptive source of a completely a priori representation of the I as object: as a simple and identical substance. The only input it recognizes is the “I think” and it attempts to derive from it substantive cognitive conclusions. 
We have thus before us a pretended science, raised upon the single proposition, "I think," whose foundation or want of foundation we may very properly, and agreeably with the nature of a transcendental philosophy, here examine (329)
            "I think" is therefore the only text of rational psychology, from which it must develop its whole system. It is manifest that this thought, when applied to an object (myself), can contain nothing but transcendental predicates thereof; because the least empirical predicate would destroy the purity of the science and its independence of all experience (330)
 
The independence from empirical, intuitive content of the representation “I think”, if associated to the supposition of its immediate entailment of real existence, leads to the Cartesian view that by thought and consciousness we can know our nature as simple and identical subjects. But to achieve the aim of Rational Psychology, we should have intellectual intuition of ourselves, that is, of ourselves as noumenal objects. But we lack this form and source of knowledge in all cases, including our self. We are restricted to the empirical intuition of ourselves.
Now, as I do not possess another intuition of self which gives the determining in me (of the spontaneity of which I am conscious), prior to the act of determination, in the same manner as time gives the determinable, it is clear that I am unable to determine my own existence as that of a spontaneous being, but I am only able to represent to myself the spontaneity of my thought, that is, of my  determination, and my existence remains ever determinable in a purely sensuous manner, that is to say, like the existence of a phenomenon (169 footnote)
 
            Without intellectual intuition and not being in a position to resort to sensible intuition, Rational Psychology can derive from the “I think” existential conclusions that are restricted to the content of that principle; which is not as of an object. It only moves in a circle. «And this inconvenience we find it impossible to rid ourselves of, because consciousness in itself is not so much a representation distinguishing a particular object, as a form of representation in general, in so far as it may be termed cognition; for in and by cognition alone do I think anything» (331).
Rational psychology falls between three stools. (i) A priori apperception represents to my consciousness only my spontaneity, my activity, and my bare existence, without even specifying whether it is as appearance or as noumenon. (ii) I exist as subject or in the first person empirically, as an appearance in time and with substantive a posteriori knowledge of myself and mental states. (iii) A priori apperception is necessary and sufficient for individuating and re-identifying myself in the first person, indirect reflexively, as self and myself. These commitments, while not inconsistent (at least, this is the supposition that Kant’s own theory of the first person and of the self aims to make good) certainly seem to display some tensions among them.
Rational Psychology fails to see Kant’s way out of the difficulty: (i) is consistent with (ii) and (iii) because I can be first personally conscious in the guise both of a posteriori self-knowledge and of the a priori thought of my necessary subjectivity (transcendental and practical). However, but only in the first way can the real existence of the self-conscious subject, of the I, be asserted. There is no knowable subject matter left for the robust metaphysics of the self or soul. But Rational Psychology, so to say, invents one, by collapsing (ii) and (iii) in the idea of I as simple, identical substance, on the (presumptive) basis of (i).
This comes in view in the general form of the fallacy on which Rational Psychology is based. the contrast between third and first personal claims, respectively in the first and in the second premise (both correct: the fallacy is formal) is crucial. This is the inference in the first edition.
               That, the representation of which is the absolute subject of our judgments and cannot therefore be employed as determination of another thing, is substance.
               I, as a thinking being, am the absolute subject of all my possible judgments, and this representation of myself cannot be employed as predicate of any other thing.
               Therefore I, as thinking being (soul), am substance (A 333)
 
The major premise is definitional: it states the concept of substance and therefore is perfectly third personal. The minor is first personal: it is a statement of the content of “I think”, which is paradigmatically first-personal («Now in all our thought the 'I' is the subject, in which thoughts inhere only as determinations; and this 'I' cannot be employed as the determination of another thing», 333). The only conclusion we can draw from these premises is that, from the first personal viewpoint, I cannot but think of myself as substance; this is just a specification of “I think”: «Everyone must, therefore, necessarily regard himself as substance, and thought as [consisting] only [in] accidents of his being, determinations of his state» (333). The rational psychologists think they can conclude to my necessary existence as substance because they neglect the first-personal character of the minor.
               However, as we will see, some difficulties with the first person remain in with Kant’s philosophy. Rational Psychology is rooted in complications of the first person (on Kant’s own conception of it): in particular, in the character of the transcendental unity of apperception and the distinction between the two kinds of object, of self as object, it leads to. In this way, the paralogisms are «grounded in the nature of human reason» (329). And Kant’s criticism of them is at the same time a further exploration into the logic of the first person.
 
 
 
 
           
 
 
 
 
 
 

Data inizio: 
Martedì, 23 Novembre, 2021
Data fine: 
Mercoledì, 23 Novembre, 2022

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