Kant's conception of the self: Applying the dual-aspect reading of the phenomena/noumena distinction to the self

Theodore Di Maria, Marquette University

Abstract

In his critical philosophy, Kant considers the 'subject' to be the source and ground of the a priori conditions of experience, but says exasperatingly little to elucidate this crucial notion. Kant's express view in the first Critique is that the self, like other objects of experience, can be considered either through the conditions of experience as a phenomenon, or as it is independently of these conditions as a noumenon. According to this view, the 'subject' that serves as the ground of the a priori conditions of experience must therefore be understood either as the phenomenal or noumenal self. Commentators such as Henry Allison reject Kant's express view as inconsistent with the awareness of oneself as 'thinking subject', however, since the latter is an awareness of the activity of thinking, while 'phenomena' and 'noumena' are concepts of things . The dissertation presents an interpretation and defense of Kant's express view of the self against commentators such as Allison. The defense begins by applying the dual-aspect reading of the phenomena/noumena distinction to the self, which is necessary to give the view initial plausibility. It is then argued that the activity of thinking, which is represented by the 'transcendental unity of apperception' or 'I think', is attributable to the noumenal self in the negative sense, or transcendental subject. The activity of thinking is thus conceptually distinct from, but ontologically dependent upon, the transcendental subject to which it belongs. Kant's express view therefore does not, pace Allison, require the identification of the thinking subject, with the 'phenomenal' or 'noumenal' selves. The final two chapters of the dissertation consist of closer studies of the concepts of the 'phenomenal' and 'noumenal' selves respectively. The former examines the notions of 'inner sense' and 'self-affection' as they pertain to the phenomenal self. The latter considers the noumenal self as it functions in Kant's practical philosophy. It is seen that the results of both chapters are consistent with the previous defense of Kant's express view of the self.

Recommended Citation

Theodore Di Maria, "Kant's conception of the self: Applying the dual-aspect reading of the phenomena/noumena distinction to the self" (January 1, 1999). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9929154.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9929154

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