Kant and the Leibnizian Conception of Mind

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In what follows, I will detail Kant's criticism of the Leibnizian conception of mind as it is presented in key chapters of the Kritik der reinen Vernunft . Approaching Kant with such a focus goes against the current predominant in contemporary Kant scholarship. Kant's engagement with Leibniz in the KrV is often taken as limited to the refutation of the latter's relational theory of space and time in the Aesthetic and the general criticism presented in the Amphiboly chapter, inasmuch as Kant is taken to be primarily concerned with addressing empiricist opponents (a focus particularly evident in the English-language commentary). In addition, the argument against rational psychology in the Paralogisms is taken as challenging an essentially Cartesian position. The first two chapters of this project will introduce the Leibnizian conception of the mind, contrasting it with its Cartesian predecessor, and consider the career of the Leibnizian conception in the schools of 18th century Germany. As I will show, it was the Leibnizian conception of mind that held sway, despite scattered challenges, and that would have primarily been on Kant's mind when he turned to consider the extravagant claims of metaphysical psychology. In chapters 3-5, I turn to Kant's criticism of this conception as presented in the Transcendental Analytic of the KrV . There, I show how the subjective and objective deductions, in addition to the Amphiboly chapter, all address the Leibnizian claim of a parallelism between the investigations of the mental and the physical. In chapters 6-8, I consider the case against the Leibnizian conception of mind as presented in the Transcendental Dialectic, claiming that the doctrine of transcendental illusion plays an important (though largely ignored) role in explaining the grounds of the Leibnizian conception as it is transmitted in the rational psychology of Wolff, Baumgarten, Crusius, and Kant himself in the 1770's. Moreover, I argue that the limits Kant sets to empirical psychology are consistent with his criticism of the Leibnizian conception of mind, and, significantly, are motivated by deeper practical concerns.


Dr. Corey Dyck is currently a faculty member at The University of Western Ontario.