Kant on Empirical Self-Consciousness

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 102 (1):79-99 (2024)
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Kant is said to be the first to distinguish between consciousness of oneself as the subject of one’s experiences and consciousness of oneself as an object, which he calls transcendental and empirical apperception, respectively. Of these, it is empirical apperception that is meant to enable consciousness of any empirical features of oneself; what this amounts to, however, continues to puzzle interpreters. I argue that a key to understanding what empirical apperception consists in is Kant’s claim that each type of apperception corresponds to a distinct type of unity of apperception—that is, a distinct way in which representations can be related for a subject. Whereas transcendental unity of apperception requires that representations be actively combined by the understanding, empirical unity of apperception obtains when representations are passively combined by the reproductive imagination. In light of this, I develop a novel account of Kant’s two types of apperception, according to which they correspond to a cognitive subject’s consciousness of two essential aspects of herself—namely, her spontaneity and receptivity.



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Janum Sethi
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

References found in this work

Two Kinds of Unity in the Critique of Pure Reason.Colin McLear - 2015 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 53 (1):79-110.
Two Kinds of Self‐Knowledge.Matthew Boyle - 2008 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (1):133-164.
Kant's thinker.Patricia Kitcher - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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