Spontaneity before the Critical Turn: Crusius, Tetens, and the Pre-Critical Kant on the Spontaneity of the Mind

Journal of the History of Philosophy 54 (4):625-648 (2016)
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Kant’s introduction in the Kritik der reinen Vernunft (KrV) of a spontaneity proper to the understanding is often thought to be one of the central innovations of his Critical philosophy. As I show in this paper, however, a number of thinkers within the 18th century German tradition in the time before the KrV (including the pre-Critical Kant himself) had already developed a robust conception of the spontaneity of the mind, a conception which, in many respects lays the groundwork for Kant’s later, rather more influential account. To illustrate this, I consider three accounts of the spontaneity of the mind—those of Crusius, the pre-Critical Kant, and Tetens—which, while distinct, nonetheless relate to and explicitly draw upon one another in important ways, forming as it were the interconnected and, thus far, largely overlooked pre-Critical context for Kant’s discussion of the spontaneity of the understanding in the KrV. As I conclude, while Kant’s own account of the spontaneity of the understanding, and particularly of the I think clearly departs from these accounts, it nonetheless continues to connect in significant ways with the trailblazing discussions of his immediate predecessors.

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Corey W. Dyck
University of Western Ontario

Citations of this work

Consciousness as Inner Sensation: Crusius and Kant.Jonas Jervell Indregard - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5.
18th Century German Philosophy prior to Kant.Corey W. Dyck & Brigitte Sassen - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Kant and the Pre-Conceptual Use of the Understanding.Jonas Jervell Indregard - 2021 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 103 (1):93-119.
Kant's subjective deduction: A reappraisal.Ryan S. Kemp - 2018 - European Journal of Philosophy 26 (3):945-957.
18th century German philosophy prior to Kant.Brigitte Sassen - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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