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Kant on psychology as 'physiology of the inner sense'

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Kant’s views on mathematics and the exact sciences, such as physics, have long been discussed. However, his account of psychology has often been neglected or even dismissed in debates on his significance as a philosopher of science. Within his project of a critique of human reason, Kant nevertheless gives psychology several meta-theoretical considerations. In various works, most notably in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Metaphysical Foundations, Kant criticises the conception of psychology of his contemporaries, particularly of the Wolffian tradition, according to which the discipline was divided into Empirical and Rational Psychology and mainly based on introspection.

In this paper, I reconstruct Kant’s view of psychology which he characterizes as ‘physiology of the inner sense’. In particular, I will address two questions, firstly, as to how Kant demarcates psychology from his transcendental philosophy and secondly, as to how he conceives the division of labour between psychology and physics. The answers are based on the two main arguments he presents against the traditional conception of psychology, a metaphysical argument against a rational foundation of psychology and a methodological argument against the mathematisability of psychology.

This talk is part of the HPS Philosophy Workshop series.

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