Kant on Inner Sensations and the Parity between Inner and Outer Sense

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 7:307-338 (2020)
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Does inner sense, like outer sense, provide inner sensations or, in other words, a sensory manifold of its own? Advocates of the disparity thesis on inner and outer sense claim that it does not. This interpretation, which is dominant in the preexisting literature, leads to several inconsistencies when applied to Kant’s doctrine of inner experience. Yet, while so, the parity thesis, which is the contrasting view, is also unable to provide a convincing interpretation of inner sensations. In this paper, I argue that this deadlock can be traced back to an inadequate understanding of inner sense shared by both sides. Drawing upon an analysis of the notion of obscure representations, I offer an alternative interpretation of inner sense with a special regard to self-affection, apprehension, and attention. From this basis, I will infer that outer sense delivers sensory content that is initially and intrinsically unaccompanied by phenomenal consciousness; inner sense contributes by endowing such content with phenomenal consciousness. Therefore, phenomenal qualities can be regarded as the sensory manifold of inner sense. This alternative interpretation solves the long-standing dispute concerning inner sensations and would further illuminate Kant’s notion of inner experience

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Yibin Liang
Beijing Normal University


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