Kant’s Refutation of Materialism

The Monist 72 (2):190-208 (1989)
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In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant uses the notion of spontaneity to characterize both the ordinary epistemic activity of the understanding and the kind of causal activity required for transcendentally free agency. In spite of the obvious differences between these two conceptions of spontaneity, at one time Kant virtually identified them, since he licensed the inference from the spontaneity of thought manifest in apperception to the transcendental freedom of the thinker. By the mid-1700s, however, he abandoned that view, affirming instead a sharp distinction between “logical freedom,” which pertains to acts of thought, and “transcendental freedom,” which supposedly pertains to acts of will. This distinction, if not the precise language in which it was originally expressed, remained an integral part of the “critical” philosophy. Moreover, although the topic of freedom is not discussed in the Paralogisms, Kant there insists on the illegitimacy of the attempt to derive any synthetic knowledge regarding the nature of the “thing which thinks” from the ‘I think’.



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