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Kant's Theory of Mind: An Analysis of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason (review)

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 22, Number 2, April 1984
pp. 245-247 | 10.1353/hph.1984.0021

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BOOK REVIEWS 245 Karl Ameriks. Kant's Theory of Mind: An Analysis of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason. New York: Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press 1982. Pp. ix + 314 . $27.5 o. Karl Ameriks employs both developmental and analytical approaches in this study of Kant's theory of mind. Using the whole range of possible sources (including the early works, the unpublished writings, and the lectures), he attempts to situate Kant's ideas on the soul in the larger context of their historical unfolding; concomitantly, he attempts to explicate and evaluate these ideas in terms of contemporary theories. Ameriks thus sets himself an ambitious task, and with only minor exceptions -- e.g., sometimes his developmental data provide only background information and some- times his analytical discussions get entangled in the intricacies and counterarguments of current debate -- he accomplishes the task with dexterity and solid results. The principal text of Kant's theory of mind is the chapter in the first Critique entitled "The Paralogisrns of Pure Reason," in which Kant exposes the fallacies of rational psychology. Ameriks devotes three chapters (2-4) to this text. His analysis, in addition to clarifying many matters of detail, reveals that the chapter on the Paralo- gisms is much more subtle, coherent, and rationalistic than has generally been real- ized. Ameriks argues convincingly that the underlying commitments of the chapter on the Paralogisms are by no means completely antirationalistic -- especially as per- tains to the notions of the immateriality and simplicity of the soul. He shows that Kant, despite his concern to refute the arguments of the rational psychologists, is surprisingly tolerant of the conclusions of the rational psychologists. Chapters 5 and 6 treat matters that are central to rational psychology but are not discussed at length in the chapter on the Paralogisms. Chapter 5, the shortest in the book, presents a brief review of Kant's arguments for the immortality of the soul. Chapter 6 treats Kant's theory of freedom and advances the most important thesis of the book, namely, that Kant believed in 1781 (the first edition of the first Critique) and continued to believe until sometime shortly after 1785 (the Foundations of the Metaphysics o] Morals) that freedom, unlike the other supraphenomenal characteristics comprising the rationalistic conception of the soul, admits a theoretical proof, as opposed to merely a practical one. It was due to this belief, Ameriks argues, that Kant chose in the first Critique to discuss freedom in the chapter on the Antinomies rather than in the chapter on the Paralogisms, the refutational posture of which ruled out any positive, better yet theoretical, arguments concerning matters beyond the limits of experience. It was also due to this belief, according to Arneriks, that Kant spoke in the third section of the Foundations of a need for a demonstration of freedom in a sense sufficiently strong (viz., autonomy) to found morality. Indeed, Ameriks interprets this section of the Foundations as actually attempting a strict (i.e., categorical-theoretical) deduction of freedom in this sense. But Arneriks points out that if Kant did attempt such a deduction of freedom in 1785, he must have realized soon thereafter that the attempt did not and could not succeed. For the second Critique (1788) attempts no such deduction and argues for freedom only insofar as it is a necessary condition of morality. Pursuing this line of thought, Ameriks arrives at the following conclusions: (x) that Kant did in fact experience a disillusionment over 246 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 22:2 APR 198 4 freedom sometime soon after 1785 , (2) that this disillusionment led him to submit the matter of self-knowledge to a thorough review, and (3) that this review in turn led him in 1787 to undertake a major revision of the first Critique -- in which, accordingly, the issue of self-knowledge, and in particular the strict constraints that must be placed upon it, is the overriding concern. Ameriks's argument in chapter 6 opens up a new way of understanding the interplay between Kant's theoretical and practical philosophies during the 178os. More specifically, it clarifies the role that that interplay may have had in bringing Kant to write the...



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