The Review of Metaphysics

Volume 73, Issue 1, September 2019

Zachary Calhoun
Pages 77-108

Kant on Positing
Being as Self-determination

“Positing” is a technical term of art with many meanings and uses in German philosophy. For Wolff and Baumgarten, positing is an indeterminate function of general logic; but for Fichte and the later Idealists, positing is a metaphysical term denoting the basic activity of the “I.” This paper argues that Kant largely initiated the metaphysical interpretation of positing as an active verb that refers to the basic function of apperceptive existence. In his rejection of the ontological proof, Kant says that “being” is “merely the positing of a thing.” Kant’s statement prepares the way for a moral interpretation of being. Being is always an object of concern for the disquieted experiential subject who ceaselessly asks metaphysical questions that cannot be answered. The thinking subject lies somewhere between passivity and activity, always dissatisfied with the very world that its categories help to articulate. It is morality that resolves this ontological tension.