April 25-30, 2016 - Tucson   


Monday, April 25, 9 am to 1 pm

Pre-Conference Workshop



The writings of 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant are a groundstone of Western philosophy, and relate to modern cognitive science and the nature of reality. Tobias Schlicht, Professor of Philosophy at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, will discuss Kant in the context of conscious versus unconscious mental states, global workspace, functionalism, dual-aspect theory and resting state brain in default mode networks.

Prof. Dr. Tobias Schlicht

Institut für Philosophie II

Ruhr-Universität Bochum



Theoretical positions from historical figures in philosophy are not only interesting in their own right but can sometimes be especially helpful in teaching us systematic ways of inquiry that are ignored or simply unknown in contemporary debates. In several recent publications, it has been suggested that various claims from Kant’s tentative Philosophy of Mind not only have counterparts in the contemporary cognitive science of the mind but can guide cognitive science in its quest to discover the function and nature of consciousness (e.g. Hanna & Thompson 2003; Northoff 2010, 2012; Fazelpour & Thompson 2015; Schlicht, Newen 2015). Some of them have focused especially on intrinsic brain activity and its relation to Kant’s notion of the spontaneity of consciousness. More generally, Brook (1997) has claimed long ago that many of Kant’s claims make him the “intellectual godfather of cognitive science” (e.g. his distinction of percepts and concepts, his method of transcendental argument).

This workshop has two purposes: First, to (a) outline central claims of Kant’s philosophy of Mind. This is no easy task since Kant has not fully developed a full-fledged theory of consciousness or mental phenomena; rather, everything he has to say about the structure and function of mental phenomena is in the service of his epistemological project of developing a theory of knowledge. Nevertheless, central passages from the Critique of Pure Reason, his Anthropology, and Critique of Judgment will lead to a coherent framework of how to think about consciousness and its relation to cognition and the brain. This brings us to the second purpose, namely, to (b) situate Kant’s claims in contemporary debates on consciousness, (c) to evaluate which of his claims are still of use for a thoroughly naturalist approach to the mind and, more specifically (d) to evaluate whether recent claims that recent developments in cognitive neuroscience suggest a “Kantian brain” are justified (Schlicht, Newen 2015).


Outline (4 hrs):

  • Kant’s theory of consciousness (and self-consciousness)
    On the basis of his famous line that it “has to be possible for the ‘I think’ to accompany all my representations” from the first Critique, we will develop a conceptual answer to the question what distinguishes conscious from unconscious mental representations. What does it mean to say that for a mental representation to be something for me, it has to be possible for the ‘I think’ to accompany it?
  • Kant and the Global Workspace Theory
    It will be demonstrated that Kant’s theory of consciousness is importantly equivalent to the contemporary Global Workspace Theory (Dehaene 2014).
  • Kant, Cartesianism, and Functionalism
    In the Paralogisms-Chapter of the first Critique, Kant develops a succinct criticism of Descartes’ theory of the subject as a mental substance. This leaves him with an ‘epistemological dualism’ (Schlicht 2007). The question arises how to further understand this position. Is it akin to non-reductive physicalism, to functionalism (Brook 1994), to mere immaterialism (Ameriks 2000) or to a double-aspect theory (Nagel 1986) or none of these?
  • Kant on Spontaneity
    What does Kant have in mind when he distinguishes the spontaneity of mind from the mere receptivity of the senses? What is the important contribution to conscious experience and cognition provided by spontaneity? Why does Kant think that such spontaneity must be assumed?
  • The Kantian Brain
    Northoff, Thompson, Hanna and others claim that recent discoveries about the brain’s resting state or about intrinsic brain activity are akin to Kant’s notion of spontaneity. Is this claim justified and what does it mean exactly?

Optional - Pre-Conference Workshops

Workshops are held:  Monday/Tuesday, April 25 - 26

Monday Morning 9-1:  Monday Afternoon 2-6

Monday Evening 7-10 and Tuesday Morning 9-1

half day and evening Workshops

Early Workshop Fees:

TSC Student Registrants                $40 half day

TSC General Registrants                $60 half day

General Public - Student - Workshop only $75 half day

General Public - Workshop only  $125 half day