The Concept of a Constitutive Subject

  • Charles Larmore
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society Series book series (LDS)


Against all appearances, the concept of a constitutive subject does not belong solely to the more arcane regions of modern philosophy. Kant’s transcendental philosophy did, of course, introduce the concept and provided the impetus for later attempts to think through explicitly and systematically all that that concept involves. The vast quantity and difficulty of the writings that Husserl left behind testify to the unending rigour that he thought such a task required. But the concept of a constitutive subject is not just a philosophical one, any more than perhaps any philosophical concept. For the concept embodies a response to a problem that arose along the borders between philosophy and the other domains that, in the early modern era, underwent profound revolutions. The problem was how we should make sense of the fact that man finds accessible large new areas of experience, unhoped-for discoveries, and the thorough reorganisation of his economic and political way of life, once he resolves to lay down, on his own, the conditions for experience, instead of permitting them to be dictated by the world outside.


Prior Understanding Orderly Argument Summum Genus Constitutive Subject Single Coherent System 
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  1. 1.
    See Kant’s essay ‘An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?’ (1970: 54–60).Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    For a recent statement of this point, which goes back of course to Aristotle’s concept of phronesis see P. Bourdieu, Esquisse d’une théorie de la pratique (1972) (Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977))CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1981

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  • Charles Larmore

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