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Volume 36, 2019

Senses of Self: Approaches to Pre-Reflective Consciousness

Gerhard Seel
Pages 101-139

The ‘I think’. What it is all about
Self-knowing, Self-thinking, Self-consciousness

Kant distinguishes two kinds of knowledge of one-self: empirical self-knowledge due to inner sense and a priori self-knowledge achieved by transcendental apperception. This conception encounters a host of problems. I try to solve these problems from the perspective of today’s phenomenology and analytical philosophy. I first introduce a new conception of inner sense and time-consciousness and argue that empirical self-knowledge must be based on the category of person, a category Kant did not list in his table of categories. I explain how the schematism of this category works. Then I introduce the a priori notion of the subject which corresponds to Kant’s ‘I think’. However, unlike Kant I hold that the notion of the subject is the notion of a being which has certain a priori capacities. Kant did not see that the term ‘I’ must be conceived of as an indexical. I argue that this indexical refers to both, the subject who does the thinking and the person who is thought. On this basis I give an answer to the question how genuine de-se knowledge is possible. I further defend—against Wittgenstein and others—the use of a private thought language. Finally, I show that what I have developed is—notwithstanding the refutation of important elements of Kant’s theory—still essentially a Kantian approach.