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Subject, Soul and Person in Kant: Questions for Katharina Kraus

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 July 2022

Clinton Tolley*
University of California, San Diego, CA, USA


Kraus’s book is a rich and systematic examination of Kant’s account of the different dimensions of the metaphysics, epistemology and phenomenology of the ‘self’ that pertains to human subjectivity. Here I explore some of the different meanings that Kraus associates with the term ‘self’ on Kant’s behalf, asking for further clarification as to her interpretation of the terms ‘subject’ (‘the I’), ‘soul’ and ‘person’, in particular. I also raise some critical questions concerning Kraus’s account of the nature and limitations of the ‘real’ use of the concept of the soul in particular, in light of passages throughout the Critical period in which Kant seems to allow for a relatively unproblematic application of the term to whatever being it is that possesses the various psychical faculties – a being which he also seems to allow is an object of experience (and hence cognition).

Author Meets Critic
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Kantian Review

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1 At the outset Kraus uses ‘person’ to refer to both (a) that which is on the way to being a person (but is not yet), and also to (b) that toward which such a being is regulatively forming itself (cf. KSS 1–2), though she concedes at the end that this would seem to involve her in a kind of ‘circularity’ (KSS 269).

2 Kraus herself takes up Kitcher, Keller, Longuenesse and Wuerth as holding views in this neighborhood.

3 Kraus herself points to three related properties requisite for being a person: being a subject (i) that itself possesses representational faculties, and (ii) has a perspective on its representations, and (iii) has a power of self-determination (KSS 10). Kant’s reference here to ‘intelligence’ seems more restrictive than possession of some ‘representational faculty’ or other.

4 Compare also Kant’s occasional description of ‘inner intuition’ as intuition ‘of our souls’ (B50); cf. KSS 8, n. 19.

5 Kant seems to acknowledge the alignment of the two phrases (‘thinking being’ and ‘soul’) at the outset of the Paralogisms: ‘I, as thinking, am an object of inner sense, and am called “soul”’ (B400).

6 Kraus herself alludes to this broader concept toward the end of her book (KSS 260), noting the older Aristotelian distinction between <soul> as such (qua anima) and the more specific <human soul> (qua animus, or ‘rational animal’).

7 By rejecting the validity of ‘the soul’ in even this thinner sense, Kraus would seem to make not just personality but even substantiality (a category of the understanding) and persistence into merely ‘regulative’ (rather than constitutive) concepts for inner experience; cf. KSS 155–6, 202–3. By contrast, accepting the use of ‘the soul’ in this thinner sense allows us to concede empirical cognition of ‘the soul’, and restrict the regulation of inner experience solely to the properly ‘rational’ concept of <soul> (qua ‘idea’).