Klaus Düsing - Constitution and Structure of Self-Identity Kant’s Theory of Apperception and Hegel’s Criticism

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  Constitution and Structure of Self-Identity: Kant’s Theory of Apperception and Hegel’s Criticism KLAUS DUSING he philosophy of modern times since Descartes starts from the principle of self-identity or from the principle of self-consciousness and develops different models of a theory of subjectivity. But, since the end of the nineteenth century, the concept and theory of self-consciousness and of the ego have been criticized from almost every side, though by quite different arguments. It is not
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  Constitution and Structure of Self-Identity: Kant’s Theory of Apperception and Hegel’s Criticism KLAUS DUSING he philosophy of modern times since Descartes starts from the principle of T elf-identity or from the principle of self-consciousness and develops differentmodels of a theory of subjectivity. But, since the end of the nineteenth century, theconcept and theory of self-consciousness and of the ego have been criticized fromalmost every side, though by quite different arguments. It is not always clear whetherthe critique specifically points to a concept of empirical self-consciousness, under-stood as self-referential subject of its experiences, or points to a concept of pure self-consciousness, conceived as subject of pure thinking of the logical rules and categories,or points to both of them. An objection to one of the concepts is not in general sim-ply transferable to the other. Furthermore, a criticism of one of the historical the-ories in which one of these concepts has its place, even if convincing, is not neces-sarily valid for the other.So Ernst Mach’-to indicate some of these objections-declares generally andwithout reference to a specific theory of subjectivity that the ego is irrecoverable.This is meant of the empirical as well as of the pure ego, because neither of them is to be found as simple fact in psychological descriptions. For the early Husserl, be-fore he founded the transcendental phenomenology, an ego that glides over thepsychical occurrences and ostensibly connects them cannot be proved; he therebyrejects a pure ego a priori as well as an empirical self-consciousness insofar as it goesbeyond the totality of psychical events. In the same manner, William James criticizesthe assumption of a pure ego, both in the transcendental sense Kant taught and in thesubstantial sense as Descartes advocated. James claims that the empirical ego is onlya stream of consciousness in which different phases of psychical events have only a rel-ative identity. He integrates this view into the theory of neutral monism, accordingto which consciousness is not an independent entity.Later on, Bertrand Russell takes up James’s neutral monism’ and from thisstandpoint criticizes especially Descartes’s conception of the “Ego cogito,” which is 409  410 KLAUS DUSING a substance with an independent existence, and also the idea that thinking generallyis performed only by an ego. Why should it be impossible to say “it thinks” just as “it rains here”? Russell here follows a reflection of James, as well as unknowingly an in-genious vote by Lichtenberg in which the statement “it thinks” is thought of in ananalogy to “it lightens.” Thinking here is understood as a temporal psychical occur-rence that is to be stated empirically, and in this way the concept of an empirical egois challenged by this impersonal formulation. A fortiori then, Russell rejects the no-tion of a pure ego a priori. More radically, Gilbert Ryle in his behavioristic theoryputs aside the ego as an independent entity, since, unlike James and Russell, he re-jects the validity of introspection. Ryle, of course, attacks the Cartesian theory aswell, which in his opinion introduced the myth of the mental world as a kind of sec-ond theater with an existence opposed to and independent of the physical world.Mental performances are, as he stresses, of a higher order than physical ones becauseof their different logical type. But at the same time mental performances are depen-dent on preceding physical facts. So the ego, which is empirical, is self-consciousnessonly in the sense that reflection is of a higher order than simple representations andtheir contents. Therefore, it avoids itself again and again when it endeavors to com-prehend itself as an object;it is said to besystematically elusive and finally inconceiv-able. This criticism rejects any kind of srcinal self-representation of the ego.A different sort of objections to the ego is to be found in what is called theontological critique. Here the ego is rejected as the fundamental principle in modernphilosophy because, as for Nicolai Hartmann,3 the general ontological sense of thecategories of being is prior to the ego or because, as for the later Heidegger, the beingand its history are prior to any attempt to give a foundation of knowledge and prioreven to any attempt at a theory of subjectivity, which is itself a historical position.Still another critique is the Marxian objection according to which the doctrine of self-consciousness, especially of the pure ego a priori, is a hypostasis of the civil sub-ject abstracted from the civil society and their contradictions.The premises of these objections are rather divergent and in part incompatiblewith one another. One objection, however, is independent of these premises becauseit calls into question the logical possibility of the self-comprehension of the ego. It is developed as such by Henrich, but it is also contained in Ryle’s thesis of the elu-siveness of the ego and, in fact, is stated in a similar way much earlier already byPlotinus in connection with the possibility of thinking on thinking4 According to thisobjection, self-representation of self-thinking already is to be presupposed for theperformance of distinguishing and identifying in the self-representation of the ego;and, if this presupposed self-referential representation or thinking is to be thought assuch, again it presupposes the same, and so forth in an infinite regression. This ob-jection may be called an argument from infinite iteration, because it is always thesame ego that wants to conceive itself, and for that each time must presuppose itself.The objection can also be formulated as an argument of circularity. Every theory of subjectivity has to take account of this argument. Contrary to the view of those whoadvocate it, in idealistic theories of subjectivity it is invalid.In the other objections, the spectrum of differentiations in the concept of  CONSTITUTION AND STRUCTURE OF SELF-IDENTITY 41 subjectivity represented by different theories is often not suffficiently taken intoconsideration. So, in the objections to Descartes’s philosophy, understood as objec-tions to the theory of subjectivity in general, the subsequent critiques and systematicdevelopments of the Cartesian doctrine up to Kant are often neglected. The philo-sophical foundation and explanation of the internal structure of the pure, transcen-dental ego, which is the work of Kant, as well as the disclosure of gaps in this theoryand the consequent amendment in Hegel’s logic, are often unrecognized in moderncritiques of the theory of subjectivity. Therefore, Kant’s doctrine of pure appercep-tion will be discussed here with regard both to the possibilities and to the deficiencies of the critical theory of subjectivity. Hegel’s objections to Kant’s theory will be con-sidered in the light of further developments in the theory of subjectivity, which Kantdid not complete. Also Hegel’s deflectingspeculative premises and his own speculativetheory of subjectivity will be contrasted with the critical philosophy. If Kant’s andHegel’s arguments are valid, then subsequent accounts on which the ego is deniedwill probably seem less striking. I Considering the overwhelming number of inquiries into this subject, research in Kant’stheory of pure apperception might appear to be either superfluous or, for skeptics,without prospects. The Kantian theory, however, will be discussed here from a spe-cific and somewhat novel perspective, that is, from the point of dispositions, prob-lems, and gaps of a critical transcendental exposition of the internal structure of pure subjectivity and its constitution. The idealists, especially Fichte and Hegel, dealwith these questions in their critique of Kant. Recent interpretations of this idealisticcritique of Kant, some of which are to be mentioned later on, mostly proceed froma Fichtean or Hegelian position. Here, however, the arrangement of, and the problemsfor, Kant’s theory will be outlined by scrutinizing his own explanations and by con-sidering the evolution of his thought, independent of idealistic interpretations.In Neokantianism, for instance, in Cohen’s commentary, pure apperception isunderstood as the highest principle of the theory of knowledge and science; it is aprinciple that makes the use of general rules and thus objective knowledge possible.’On the other hand, Heimsoeth stresses the close connection of pure apperceptionwith personal existence. Similarly for Heidegger, pure apperception as a part of tra-ditional ontology is a concept of human existence, which constitutes modes of timeas ontological determinations. Paton is not involved in these discussions between dif-ferent Neokantian and ontological interpretations of Kant ; he gives an internal com-mentary on Kant’s theory of apperception. De Vleeschauwer proceeds in a similarway, while emphasizing the evolution of Kantian thought. Ebbinghaus and Reichsave the sense of the metaphysical deduction of the categories and interpret the con-cept of pure apperception as a principle of logic and epistemology; they avoid theNeokantian circle of proceeding from experience as real knowledge to the conditionsof its possibility but in which the same knowledge is considered. The critical analyticinterpretations, especially those of Strawson and Bennett, hold that Kant’s concept  412 KLAUS DUSING of an a priori synthetic unity of apperception with its pure synthesis a priori is mean-ingless. In an analogous manner, Hossenfelder systematically criticizes the Kantiantheory of constitution in general and especially the doctrine of pure apperceptionand its synthesis. Dryer, however, in the historical framework of Kant’s questionwhether scientific metaphysics is possible, outlines and determines the sense of theKantian doctrine of judgment and pure self-consciousness. In a detailed, historicallyreconstructing analysis, Henrich designs a theoretical structure on the basis of Kant’sexplanations about apperception and synthesis. In the matter of which questions topursue, this reconstruction is similar to our exposition. Kant in his formation of thedoctrine of pure apperception, a doctrine that is significant for his whole philosophy,is seen here predominantly neither as an analytical theorist of experience nor as arather cautious reserved metaphysician, but as an idealist within critical limits.The proof of the id‘eality of space and time necessarily precedes Kant’s tran-scendental deduction of the categories, how and in which contexts objects are to beknown by categories. Spatial and temporal intuitions as subjective representationsmust be combined in such a way that an object can be known. Object as such thenis not given in intuition, nor indeed found at all, but is the product of a constitutionby intellectual synthesis, which is according to Kant the origin of the idea of neces-sity in the connectedness of sensible intuitions. This connectedness only comes aboutby pure intellectual and spontaneous synthesis and synthetic unity. The performanceof such a synthesis is thinking; and thinking and its action, which in itself is uniformand based on a guiding synthetic unity, are to be founded in pure apperception. So Kant gives a basis for pure thinking that itself is fundamental, the basis of pure self-consciousness. A decisive step in the deduction of the categories, therefore, dependson Kant’s theory of pure self-consciousness, at least on that part of this theory inwhich the constimtion of objectivity is explained.In Kant’s view, intellectual synthesis of representations as well as its syntheticunity are attributed to pure apperception. These determinations, however, are notidentical. The intellectual synthesis is an act of the spontaneity of thinking: themanifold of representations that are to be connected, of course, must be given; it isnot produced in the act of synthesis. The synthesis further combines representationsguided by a prospect of a unity of their various contents. So the unity of a topic isbrought about by the synthesis of agiven manifold. But thesynthesis itself is possibleonly by the unity of consciousness,’ which guarantees the performance and the unityof the synthesis of representations. Kant has indicated a subordination of synthesisunder synthetic unity within the pure consciousness as such. The basic unity of con-sciousness in Kant’s thought is simplicity; for, if this unity were produced by collecteddisparate moments, the consciousness that is the constituting basis would not beunited in itself and could not produce the primitive unity of a thought and of its in-tellectual content.The connection between these concepts is only partly described or signified byKant but is not expressly developed into a theory of subjectivity. Some ideas that areemployed there are self-evident for him but not explained. So, for instance, not theawareness of the idea ‘‘I think” or of the unity of the self in actual presence, but only
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