This paper is a novel attempt at reconstructing Kant’s account of self-consciousness in the first Critique by making evident its gradual expository progression, and at identifying the epistemic status of the two modes of self-consciousness: pure and empirical. I trace the gradual exposition of theoretical self-consciousness across three crucial parts of the book: the Transcendental Deduction, the Refutation of Idealism, and the Paralogisms of Pure Reason. In doing so, I show that the account of theoretical self-consciousness is not presented to us all at once, but is progressively expanded and filled in. I also emphasize the importance of the distinction between the subject’s awareness of its existence, “Dasein”, and of its existence, “Existenz”. I conclude by discussing Kant’s preliminary remarks about practical self-consciousness in the Paralogisms, which bear an important relation to theoretical self-consciousness.
I would like to thank Michael Friedman, Allen Wood, Adrian Moore, and David Hills for providing detailed and invaluable comments on numerous earlier versions of this paper, which made it so much better. I also want to express gratitude toward Adam Zweber and other graduate students at Stanford University for the encouragement and the philosophical feedback I continue to receive from them.
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