Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Classical German Philosophy

Kant on the Ontological Grounds of the Self


Steven Tester



Cotutelle Humboldt-Universität/Northwestern University

Betreuer: Prof. Dr. Rolf-Peter Horstmann (Humboldt-Universität), Prof. Rachel Zuckert (Northwestern University)


Interpreters who understand Kant’s distinction between appearances and things in themselves to be merely epistemological often maintain that in the Critique of Pure Reason Kant rejects all metaphysical claims made by the rationalists about the self. I argue that Kant’s distinction between appearances and things in themselves holds that things as they are in themselves are the non-spatial and non-temporal causal grounds of spatial and temporal appearances and that this explains Kant’s positive metaphysical view of the self.  He holds that the unity of thought is an emergent property of an unknown causal ontological ground, that the identity of the self consists in the persistence of this ground, that mind-body interaction is possible because the ground of mental and physical appearances is intrinsically neither mental nor physical, and that freedom of the will and determinism are reconcilable. This reevaluation of Kant’s views on the self and its ontological ground transforms our understanding of his relationship to his rationalist predecessors and lays the groundwork for a broader reevaluation of Kant’s critique of metaphysics and his practical philosophy.

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