Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania (2009)

Scott Edgar
Saint Mary's University
In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787), Kant sought to explain the objectivity of cognition by describing the operation of certain human cognitive activities. That is, in some sense Kant explained cognition's objectivity by appealing to features of the mind. A century later, the Marburg School Neo-Kantians Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp would insist that philosophers must explain cognition's objectivity without appeal to the subject's mind. Once at the center of the Kantian account of objectivity, the mind had been expunged from it. This shift was the emergence of anti-psychologism, the view that the mind has no place in philosophical accounts of cognition's objectivity. This dissertation offers an account of how that shift happened. Chapter 1 argues that a central section of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, the Transcendental Deduction, is a description of a cognitive operation—namely, the apperception's synthesis of the manifold of sensible intuition. Because this operation is necessary, it determines the structures that a subject's cognition must conform to, and thus explains cognition's objectivity for Kant. But Kant's view that the mind is characterized by necessary cognitive operations was abandoned in the nineteenth century in favour of purely empirical conceptions of the mind. Chapter 2 argues that, in response to this change and in particular to the psychologism of the Back to Kant movement, Cohen developed an anti-psychologistic account of cognition's objectivity: for him, objectivity must be explained by appeal to the principles and laws of mathematics and pure natural science. But his account fails, since he does rot explain why those laws explain cognition's intersubjectivity. Chapter 3 examines Wilhelm Wundt's and Ernst Mach's attempts to articulate purely empirical conceptions of the mind, and to explain cognition's objectivity by appeal to the mind so conceived, as well as Hermann Lotze's anti-psychologism. Chapter 4 argues that, for Natorp, fundamental physical laws constitute the intersubjective content of cognition because they are invariant across space and time, and so different subjects can share representations of them despite having different points of view on the world. Natorp thus finally articulates a successful anti-psychologistic alternative to Kant's account of objectivity.
Keywords Kant  Neo-Kantianism  psychology  objectivity  space and time
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