Nature and Agency: Towards a Post-Kantian Naturalism

Topoi 42 (3):767-780 (2023)
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Abstract

We outline an alternative to both scientific and liberal naturalism which attempts to reconcile Sellars’ apparently conflicting commitments to the scientific accountability of human nature and the autonomy of the space of reasons. Scientific naturalism holds that agency and associated concepts are a mechanical product of the realm of laws, while liberal naturalism contends that the autonomy of the space of reason requires that we leave nature behind. The third way we present follows in the footsteps of German Idealism, which attempted to overcome the Kantian chasm between nature and agency, and is thus dubbed ‘post-Kantian.’ We point to an overlooked group of scholars in the naturalism debate who, along with recent work in biology and cognitive science, offer a path to overcome the reductive tendencies of empiricism while avoiding the dichotomy of logical spaces. We then bring together these different streams of research, by foregrounding and expanding on what they share: the idea of organisms as living agents and that of a continuity without identity between life and mind. We qualify this as a bottom-up transformative approach to rational agency, which grounds cognition in the intrinsically purposive nature of organisms, while emphasizing the distinction between biological agency and full-fledged mindedness.

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Author Profiles

Auguste Nahas
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

References found in this work

Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind.Evan Thompson - 2007 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Philosophical papers.David Kellogg Lewis - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Empiricism and the philosophy of mind.Wilfrid Sellars - 1956 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 1:253-329.
Critique of the power of judgment.Immanuel Kant - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Paul Guyer.

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