Brook, A. (2016). Kant’s View of the Mind and Consciousness of Self. (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

Brook, A. (2016). Kant’s View of the Mind and Consciousness of Self. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved from

[“1. A Sketch of Kant’s View of the Mind” …]

“The functions crucial for mental, knowledge-generating activity are spatio-temporal processing of, and application of concepts to, sensory inputs. Cognition requires concepts as well as percepts.” (¶7)

“These functions are forms of what Kant called synthesis. Synthesis (and the unity in consciousness required for synthesis) are central to cognition.” (¶8)

[“2. Kant’s Critical Project and How the Mind Fits Into It” …]

“Kant calls the first stage the Transcendental Aesthetic.[3] It is about what space and time must be like, and how we must handle them, if our experience is to have the spatial and temporal properties that it has.” (¶23)

“Here Kant advances one of his most notorious views: that whatever it is that impinges on us from the mind-independent world does not come located in a spatial or a temporal matrix, not even a temporal one (A37=B54fn.). Rather, it is the mind that organizes this ‘manifold of raw intuition’, as he called it, spatially and temporally. The mind has two pure forms of intuition, space and time, built into it to allow it to do so. (‘Pure’ means ‘not derived from experience’.)” (¶24)

“Most commentators have found Kant’s claim that space and time are only in the mind, not at all in the mind-independent world, to be implausible.” (¶25)

“Kant argues as follows. Our experiences have objects, are about something. The objects of our experiences are discrete, unified particulars. To have such particulars available to it, the mind must construct them based on sensible input. To construct them, the mind must do three kinds of synthesis. It must generate temporal and spatial structure (Synthesis of Apprehension in Intuition). It must associate spatio-temporally structured items with other spatio-temporally structured items (Synthesis of Reproduction in the Imagination). And it must recognize items using concepts, the Categories in particular (Synthesis of Recognition in a Concept). This threefold doctrine of synthesis is one of the cornerstones of Kant’s model of the mind.” (¶32)

[“3. Kant’s View of the Mind” …]

“… synthesis into an object by an act of recognition requires two things. One is memory. The other is that something in the past representations must be recognized _as related to_ present ones.” (¶60)

“To achieve recognition of a unified object, the mind must perform an act of judgment; it must find how various represented elements are connected to one another. This judgment is an act of apperception.” (¶61)

“… causality is likely the category that he cared more about than all the other categories put together.” (¶66)

“Unified consciousness is required for another reason, too. Representations ‘can [so much as] represent something to me only in so far as they belong with all others to one consciousness. Therefore, they must at least be capable of being so connected [A116].'” (¶72-73)

“For Kant, consciousness being unified is a central feature of the mind, our kind of mind at any rate. In fact, being a single integrated group of experiences (roughly, one person’s experiences) requires two kinds of unity.

“1. The experiences must have a single common subject (A350); and,

“2. The consciousness that this subject has of represented objects and/or representations must be unified.” (¶76-78)

[“4. Consciousness of Self and Knowledge of Self” …]

“‘I am given to myself beyond that which is given in intuition, and yet know myself, like other phenomena, only as I appear to myself, not as I am … [B155].'” (¶97)

“3. In inner sense, one is conscious of oneself only as one appears to oneself, not as one is.” (¶119)

“6. When one is conscious of oneself as subject, one’s bare consciousness of self yields no knowledge of self.” (¶150)

“7. When we are conscious of ourselves as subject, we are conscious of ourselves as the ‘single common subject’ [CPR, A350] of a number of representations.” (¶153)

[“5. Knowledge of the Mind” …]

“According to functionalism, we can gain knowledge of the mind’s functions while knowing little or nothing about how the mind is built.” (¶158)

[“6. Where Kant Has and Has Not Influenced Contemporary Cognitive Research” ]

“… Anne Treisman’s (1980) three-stage model, is very similar to all three stages of synthesis in Kant. According to Treisman and her colleagues, object recognition proceeds in three stages: first feature detection, then location of features on a map of locations, and then integration and identification of objects under concepts. This compares directly to Kant’s three-stage model of apprehension of features, association of features (reproduction), and recognition of integrated groups of under concepts (A98-A106).” (¶160)

“In short, the dominant model of the mind in contemporary cognitive science is Kantian, but some of his most distinctive contributions have not been taken into it (Brook, 2004).” (¶162)

Selected Notes

  • 3. In this context, the term ‘aesthetic’ sounds strange to our ears. Kant is using it in a now-archaic sense in which it contrasts with ‘anaesthetic’.

Selected References

  • “The Cambridge Edition of the Work of Immanuel Kant in Translation has translations into English complete with scholarly apparatus of nearly all Kant’s writings. It is probably the best single source for Kant’s works in English. Except for references to the Critique of Pure Reason, all references will include the volume number and where appropriate the page number of the Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Koniglichen Preussischen Academie der Wissenschaften, 29 Vols. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter et al., 1902– [in the format, Ak. XX:yy]).”
  • Brook, A., 2004. “Kant, cognitive science, and contemporary neo-Kantianism,” in D. Zahavi (ed.), Journal of Consciousness Studies, special issue.
  • Treisman, A., and Glade, G., 1980. “A feature-integration theory of attention,” Cognitive Psychology, 12: 97–136.
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