By Katharina T. Kraus

Kant’s critical comments on empirical psychology have often been taken to deny psychology a scientific status altogether. While recent attempts to rescue (some parts of) psychology on Kantian grounds have focused mostly on its role in action-explanation (with a view to Kant’s Anthropology), this paper argues that Kant’s Critical philosophy allows for a conception of empirical psychology as a theoretical improper science in its own right – a science that primarily concerns mental life, rather than action. Given Kant’s broader views of the natural sciences, which include both “proper” (e.g., physics) and “improper” sciences (e.g., chemistry and biology), psychology, I argue, displays a sufficient degree of systematicity so that it may qualify as a self-contained improper natural science. Starting with Kant’s general definition of science as a system unified “under one idea” (A832/B861), I argue that the transcendental idea of the soul, if understood appropriately, is the guiding idea that is needed to turn our inner experience of mental states into a systematically ordered body of psychological cognition. Accordingly, the idea of the soul delineates the domain of mental phenomena to be examined in psychology and gives internal structure to psychology by pursuing the systematic unification of psychological laws.



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