Speaker Series: Beatrice Longuenesse (NYU)
February 25, 2022 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Conflicting Logics of the Mind.
Lessons from Kant and Freud
Béatrice Longuenesse, New York University
In previous work, I have claimed that Sigmund Freud’s and Immanuel Kant’s respective views
of human mental life present striking similarities. The goal of this paper is to respond to objections to this admittedly surprising claim.
The central objection under consideration concerns the contrast between, on the one hand, Kant’s view of what he calls the “unity of consciousness,” which he takes to be fundamental to human minds; and, on the other, Freud’s conception of what he takes to be the insuperably conflicted nature of our mental life. I acknowledge the force of the objection and offer responses to it.
In the final part of the paper, I return to what may appear to be the most insuperable objection to any comparison between Kant and Freud: how can Kant’s transcendental, a priori investigation of the mind have anything in common with Freud’s empirical, clinical investigation? I again acknowledge the force of the objection. But I also note that Kant taught a course in Anthropology throughout his philosophical career and that one of the last works he published in his lifetime was the Anthropology from a Pragmatic Standpoint, a work that is deeply informed by Kant’s three Critiques. For Kant himself, then, a priori and empirical investigations of the human mind do not appear to have been mutually incompatible I suggest that the differences and connections between Kant’s and Freud’s respective views of the mind yield valuable lessons for contemporary investigations of the place of mind in nature.