Self-Consciousness in Kant's Transcendental Deduction of the Categories: What do we Understand when we Understand?
Audio recording of a lecture given by tutor Kit Slover on February 26, 2021 as part of the Dean's Lecture & Concert Series. The Dean's Office has provided this description of the event: "In the Preface to the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant confesses that the 'Transcendental Deduction' of the categories is the section of his work that cost him the most effort to produce. In the centuries since its composition, it has cost his readers just as much—or even more—effort simply to understand. From its style of argumentation to its basic conclusions, this all-important chapter of the Critique remains one of the densest in the entire work. In this lecture, I will present a reading of the Deduction, hoping to make some sense of its fundamental claims and transcendental argument. I’ll focus my exposition around the activity of 'apperception'—roughly synonymous with self-consciousness—contending that, for Kant, our cognition of the objective world around us always runs in important ways through our recognition of ourselves in and through that world. Objects align with the concepts that make them what they are just by enabling us to become conscious of ourselves through our experience of them. After exploring the argument of the Deduction, I’ll attempt to make its claims more concrete by showing self-consciousness to consist in taking rational responsibility for one’s claims, beliefs, and actions—in the way Socrates tries to make us do. I will conclude the talk by using the Deduction to think about some of the most notorious questions surrounding Kant’s critical philosophy. How should we understand the so-called 'thing-in-itself?' How, and in what sense, are human beings both free and constrained by causality? I think the Deduction has some unexpected answers. The target audience for this lecture is the junior class, who will be discussing Kant in seminar for the first time, but I hope it may also be of some interest to more seasoned readers of the Critique and students who have not yet read it. "
Santa Fe, NM
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