Kant on the identity of persons

Béatrice Longuenesse

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According to Kant, the rationalist notion of a person as a thinking substance, conscious of its own identity through time, trades on an ambiguity concerning the meaning of 'being conscious of the numerical identity of oneself at different times'. I argue that against the rationalist notion, Kant endorses the notion of a person as a spatio-temporal entity endowed with unity of apperception and capable of knowing its own identity through time according to empirical criteria of identification and re-identification. Nevertheless, Kant maintains that the rationalist notion is both 'necessary and sufficient for practical use'. I argue that in fact, Kant's empirical notion of a person was sufficient even for the purposes of his moral philosophy. I conclude by comparing my analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Kant's view with Peter Strawson's analysis of Kant's argument in the Paralogisms of Pure Reason.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-167
Number of pages19
JournalProceedings of the Aristotelean Society
Issue number1 PART 2
StatePublished - Aug 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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