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Inkanyiso: Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

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Kant’s theory of concept formation and the role of mind

Francis Israel Minimah

Abstract


The emphasis of the rationalists on concept formation is traceable to the unfolding of the mind’s innate powers in producing ideas within itself. The empiricists, on the other hand, beginning with the data of experience as the source of all our legitimate concepts and truths of the world, conceive the mind as contributing nothing to the knowing process – a position that had severe negative consequences for human knowledge. Immanuel Kant’s response to his predecessors was to formulate a new theory of concept formation in which he conceives the crucial role our minds play in the determination of the forms of our knowledge. The key to the progression in this paper which shows its most important contribution is not only the attempt to analyze how Kant “sets out to discover and justify the principles underlying objective judgements” but also his arguments that the human mind brings ‘something’ transcendental to the object it experiences. This view, which is revolutionary, represents a turning point in Western philosophy and indicates the need for new conceptual schemes of the mind that became manifest at the beginning of the 19th century. This is tremendously evident in Heidegger’s philosophy and in mentalistic psychology from Freud to Chomsky.

Keywords: concept formation, mind, critical philosophy, subject-object, Emmanuel Kant




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