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Reviewed by:
  • Kant and the Faculty of Feeling ed. by Kelly Sorensen and Diane Williamson
  • Robert B. Louden
Kelly Sorensen and Diane Williamson, editors. Kant and the Faculty of Feeling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. 284. Cloth, £75.00.

In several texts (see, for instance, Kant's letter to Reinhold of late December, 1787 and the Table of Contents for Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View), Kant announces that there are three distinct mental faculties: cognition, desire, and feeling. This trinitarian commitment should give us pause, for many people (including some who comment on and criticize Kant) operate instead with a dualist model of reason and emotion, where desire and feeling are usually squished together under emotion. Here, as elsewhere, the Kantian model is more complicated. On Kant's view, each of the three faculties has its own specific work to do and generates its own kinds of representations. We do not simply have emotions that are endorsed or rejected by reason. Rather, in typical cases, we have a pleasurable or displeasurable feeling about something (on Kant's view, all feelings are either pleasurable or displeasurable—a position that has always struck me as objectionably reductionist), which then gives rise to a desire to pursue or evade it, which reason then either endorses or rejects. But even this scenario is much too simplistic and misleading, [End Page 764] for Kantian feelings relate to desires and cognition in many different ways. For instance, some feelings are generated by reason rather than simply being constrained or endorsed by them—they come after rather than before reason. Also, according to many (but not all) of the contributors to this volume, Kantian feelings themselves have cognitive content—"for Kant, all feelings necessarily involve subjective judgments of value" (Allen Wood, "Feeling and Desire in the Human Animal," 99; cf. Janelle DeWitt, "Feeling and Inclination," 74).

Kant also sometimes states (and several of the contributors to this volume follow him on this point—see especially Patrick Frierson, "'A new sort of a priori principles,'" 107–29) that his trinity of faculties parallels his three Critiques: the first Critique is concerned with cognition, the second with desire, and the third with feeling. This particular equation has always seemed problematic to me, especially in the case of the second Critique. (For instance, well over half of this anthology's thirteen contributors discuss the role and nature of feelings in Kant's practical philosophy. And I think the case can also be made that cognition, desire, and feeling all receive at least some attention in each of the three Critiques). It thus seems safer to say "Kant never explicitly offers a systematic account of feeling in any of his major texts" (DeWitt, 70), which no doubt accounts, at least in part, for "the unfortunate lack of scholarly attention paid to the faculty of feeling" in the secondary literature on Kant (Diane Williamson, "Introduction," 1). Kant and the Faculty of Feeling is intended to fill this void—or at least "pull the academic helm" in the direction of feeling (Williamson, 1).

One major obstacle to reviewing anthologies for the Journal of the History of Philosophy is that their 800-word limit prevents reviewers (particularly those guided by a sense of Kantian fairness toward the thirteen contributors) from getting into any details about each individual piece. Therefore, I will unfortunately restrict myself here to a few brief, general comments. I learned something from each essay—the overall quality of the contributions is high. Each of the thirteen contributors has written previously on Kantian feelings, and most of them manage to say something new and interesting in their contributions to this anthology. Much work is currently being done on the topic of feelings and emotions in general, and there is a definite need for a clearer account of Kant's views in this area. The present collection, especially when aided by the helpful twelve-page bibliography included at the end of the volume, is the best starting point for this task. Granted, several of the essays do re-visit familiar territory (respect, the beautiful and sublime, sympathy and love, hope, etc.), but they usually manage to do so in new...


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