Central Nervous System Philosophers as Dieticians of the Mind

  • Robert E. Butts
Part of the The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 24)


My investigation of the rôle of the Double Government.Methodology in the thought of Kant has been cast in the frame of certain of Kant’s interests not usually uppermost in the minds of commentators as they present us with details of his philosophical insights and arguments. As I present his developing system, the twin motives of accommodating both mechanism and teleology led Kant to insistent preoccupation with the mind/body problem, leading from his earliest suggested solution to this problem in Living Forces, to his solution or dissolution of the problem in the first Critique. A regular feature of his attentive thought was the attempt to fix the ontological and the epistemological status of the supersensible. In all of this the problem of mind/body connection is dissolved by detection of logical features of the very attempt to state the problem, and the supersensible is finally “located” as a contentless idea of reason having a merely regulative employment in the strongest sense of this term.


Mental Illness Mental Distress Aesthetic Judgement External Sensation Critical Philosophy 
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  1. 2.
    One of Kant’s latest works (1798) bears the title, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. He lectured on anthropology regularly beginning in the fall semester of 1772/73. Kant thought that one can investigate man from either a physiological or a pragmatic standpoint. The physiologist studies what nature makes of man, investigating in “the Cartesian fashion”. Pragmatic knowledge of man seeks to know what man makes, and can and should make, of himself as a freely acting being. We note again the duality of mechanical and teleological explanation. Pragmatic knowledge of man is knowledge of man as “a citizen of the world”, rather than as a creature of nature.Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    The Latin names employed by Kant for the mental illnesses were much in vogue in 18th Century Europe and Britain. William Cullen (1710–1790) uses vesania to cover all forms of impaired judgement, and amentia for him means imbecility of judgement. See R. Hunter ε I. Macalpine (1963) pp. 474–79. François de Sauvages (1706–67) employs some of Kant’s terms in Nosologie Méthodique. Gregory Zilboorg notes that vesania is a term that originates with Cicero, and “was frequently used by nosologists to denote generally what is called in English ‘insanity’”[Zilboorg (1941) p. 307]. I think that Kant’s nosology is close to that of Cullen in many respects. They are both agreed that madness is in general a fault of the intellect, although Kant subsumes this taxonomic axiom under the forms of his own architectonic. Vesania and amentia are used by J. B. Erhard, Ueber die Melancholie, in M. Wagner’s Beiträge zur philosophischen Anthropologie (Vienna 1794–96). Kant corresponded with Erhard, and it is quite probable that he knew his psychiatric studies firsthand. 1 have been unable to discover if Kant had read the nosology of François Boissier de Sauvages de la Croix. His only reference is to his study “Betrachtungen über die Seele in der Erstarrung und Schlafwanderung”, Hamburger Magazin, VII, 489–512, in the Prize Essay (An Inquiry into the Distinctness of the Principles of Theology and Morals, 1764) [Kant (1949) p. 275]. The sentence is interesting: “But it does not follow that in sleep they [ideas not remembered when awake] could not have been clear to consciousness, as in Sauvages’ example of a cataleptic person or in ordinary actions of a somnambulist”. Cullen is referred to three times, once in Opus postumum, Convolut XVIII, Bogen 4, p. 407 [Akademie Ed., Vol. 22], and twice in the handwritten Nachlass [Ak. Ed. Vol. 15, Bd. 2, Vol. 1, “Medicin”, Reflections 1544 ε 1548. The references in Opus postumum and Reflection 1548 are obscure. I translate Reflection 1544: “The function of his head is not paralyzed, but still it comes to be inhibited. (Cullen, Brown)”. Cullen introduced ‘neurosis’ [following Thomas Willis (1667): ‘diseases of the brain and nervous stock’; Sydenham (1682): ‘hysteric disorders’; and Whytt (1765): ‘nervous disorders’], and ‘paranoia’ into English. Kant’s letters and the Nachlass provide much evidence that he had read widely in the available medical sources. Notes on Kant’s lectures on metaphysics (see Chapter III) contain many references to the medical psychological and physiological literature of his time.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert E. Butts
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe University of Western OntarioCanada

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