Transcendental Kantianism, Naturalized Kantianism, and the Bounds of Psychology

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Are there sensory states (“perceptions”) that, unlike mere sensory registrations, require an explanatory framework (“psychology”) that goes beyond biology? Based on a reconstruction of Kant’s a priori, transcendental psychology, contemporary Kantians answer this question in the positive but dramatically limit the scope of psychology. In contrast, naturalistically oriented deflationists answer it in the negative, thereby not giving psychology any explanatory role whatsoever. In his recent monumental book Origins of Objectivity, Burge argues against both of these approaches and seeks to develop an intermediate approach between them. This he does by embedding Kantian transcendental psychology in contemporary science of perception, thereby naturalizing the former and considerably broadening the scope of psychology. In this paper I critically examine Burge’s naturalized Kantianism, thereby defending transcendental Kantianism. To this end, I first outline Kantian transcendental psychology of perception, highlighting the features that distinguish it from biology. I then show how Burge naturalizes this psychology by embedding its most fundamental notions in contemporary science of perception. Based on all this, I conclude the paper by arguing for two closely related claims. First, that transformed into empirical psychology, Kantian transcendental psychology loses the features that distinguish it from biology. Second, that genuine perception starts at the high cognitive level for which transcendental psychology accounts and not at the rather low or elementary level on which Burge focuses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-488
Number of pages24
JournalActa Analytica
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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