Kant on the identity of persons
Longuenesse (Beatrice)
Source: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 22 January 2007, draft
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. For the rationalist philosophers Kant intends to rebut, we are persons only insofar as we are thinking substances, distinct from our own bodies, and as such, conscious of our own identity through time.
  2. Kant notoriously thinks that this notion of a person, and the belief that we are persons in just this way, are the result of an implicit and invalid inference from features of the thought ‘I’ in the proposition “I think,” to purported features of an entity: a substance, indeed a thinking substance, distinct from the body.
  3. Kant calls the general pattern of this invalid inference a “Paralogism of Pure Reason,” and he calls the particular inference that leads from the thought “I think” to the assertion of my own identity through time as a person “the Paralogism of personality.”
  4. In this paper, I will argue that from Kant’s criticism of the “Paralogism of Personality” there emerges a positive notion of a person that is more complex and subtle than is generally acknowledged.
  5. I proceed in five stages.
    • First, I give a quick overview of Kant’s criticism of the “paralogism of personality.”
    • This allows me to identify two different meanings of “being conscious of the identity of oneself at different times” according to Kant. I further explore each of these meanings in parts two and three of the paper.
    • In part four, I explore the contrast between Kant’s criticism of the rationalist notion of a person, in the Paralogism of personality, and what seems to be, ultimately, his endorsement of it as an idea that has its proper use in the context of practical reason.
    • In part five, I take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of Kant’s view, as measured against Peter Strawson’s reconstruction / amendment of it in "Strawson (Peter) - The Bounds of Sense - An Essay on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason".

  1. Kant’s criticism of the “Paralogism of Personality”
  2. “I, as thinking, am conscious of the identity of myself at different times”
  3. “I” in “I think,”and (the consciousness of) the numerical identity1 of myself as an entity persisting through time.
  4. Kant’s person, and the moral standpoint
  5. Kant versus Strawson


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