Wuerth, J. (2014): Kant on Mind, Action, and Ethics

This is a useful discussion of Kant’s conception of the mind and its faculties, though the discussion is very largely text-based, relies perhaps too heavily on the lectures, and only does a very narrow job at following through on fundamental questions and issues in Kant’s philosophy of mind or metaphysics.

Ch. 6 - Kant’s Map of the Mind


Wuerth makes some good points regarding self-consciousness and the fact that it makes rational beings different in kind not just degree from other animals (but much of this is already familiar from my discussions of Kant on animals, though some of the Anthropology lecture texts are new).

Here are two useful questions to ask (though not particularly well-answered by Wuerth)

  1. Is self-consciousness necessary or also sufficient for the possession of the “higher” faculties (e.g.¬†understanding, judgment, reason, will)
  2. Does understanding (or the intellect) presuppose self-consciousness, or does self-consciousness presuppose understanding (note that this is ambiguous between actual self-consciousness and the mere capacity for self-consciousness

Wuerth’s answer to (1) is to make a distinction between “nascent” and “full-fledged” concepts and thoughts (p.¬†209). He then proceeds to give a kind of text-based child-developmental account. This strikes me as totally unhelpful. Wuerth answers (2) by giving a qualified denial of sufficiency (p. 210), but it again depends on the distinction between nascent and full-fledged thought, which is in no way explained or made otherwise plausible/compelling.

Activity & Passivity

Useful discussion of substance as active and passive and of the connection of activity of substance in grounding its accidents to the constraint on cognition of things only as appearances (pp. 212-13). As Wuerth points out, the division between higher and lower faculties cannot be one solely in terms of an unqualified active/passive distinction since even the lower faculties must be considered active in various ways.

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