Kitcher, P. (2011): Kant's thinker

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Rational Cognition

Kitcher argues that

to cognize through concepts humans must not merely have representations that lead to other representations. In the case of complex concepts, they must recognize the partial representations as the grounds of cognition of the whole representation (judgement) and so the existence and rationality of the judgement as dependent upon them [@kitcher2014, 150]

More generally, in ch. 9 of her 2011, Kitcher argues that Kant gives, in the TD an argument that apperception (self-consciousness) is necessary for cognition and construes the argument as follows:1

  1. Rational cognition necessarily depends on the capacity to base one’s beliefs on reasons, i.e. on other conceptual judgments/beliefs
  2. Believing something on the basis of a reason requires (i) consciousness of the belief as based on other conceptual judgments/beliefs; (ii) consciousness of grounding and grounded beliefs as all belonging to one and the same subject
  3. Conditions (i) and (ii) are only possible via pure apperception
  4. \(\therefore\) Apperception is necessary for believing something on the basis of a reason
  5. \(\therefore\) Apperception is necessary for rational cognition

Rosefeldt (2014) worries that (2) is an overintellectualization of the conditions for rational belief and inference. He makes two objections:

  1. She might believe something for a certain reason without recognizing that this reason is a reason, for example, if she has not yet acquired the conception of some things being reasons for others. Let us call this the possibility of unreflected reasons.

  2. She might believe that something is a reason for something else without being able to self-ascribe either her original belief or the belief that grounds it. For example, she might believe that the sound of the car speaks in favour of Mama’s arrival but lack the ability to self-ascribe her own beliefs because she has not yet acquired a conception of herself as a believer. Let us call this the possibility of reflected but not self-conscious reasons. [@rosefeldt2014, 128-9]

I’m not particularly convinced by either of Rosefeldt’s objections, but I don’t think Kitcher offers very cogent (or even particularly clear) replies.

I’m also consistently unsure as to what the view is that Kitcher is mooting. Is it an “intentionalist” one, according to which believing for a reason requires ‘grasping’ or conceptualizing a rule and drawing the conclusion that I must now perform the act required by its consequent, or is it merely a dispositionalist position, according to which believing for a reason is merely having a disposition that conforms with a rule capturing the rational relation between p and q?

Moreover, however one answers this, Kitcher’s view on self-consciousness is also ambiguous. She either identifies self-consciousness with the activity of producing necessary connections between mental states or construes such causal production as sufficient for recognition (see [@kitcher2014, 153]). On the identity reading her view is much less intellectually demanding than it may first appear, since as long as there is a causal relationship between the states, we can count such recognition as having occurred. The grounds for the identity reading lie in her calling the term “conscious” in “conscious performance of an act of producing a judgment” “pleonastic”, as well as claim that “The consciousness is not of one’s self performing the act (or the account would be circular), but of performing the act” [@kitcher2014, 155].

  1. cf. [@rosefeldt2014, 128]. ↩︎

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